Postponing the vote on the Republicans’ alternative health care plan is not enough. Start over, figure out what went wrong and develop a plan that is really about meeting the needs of Americans.
The existing Affordable Care Act has had real shortcomings. Many insurers lost money and withdrew from the exchanges, leaving many regions with just one or two providers. Many customers saw rates spiral upward. They lost coverage that worked for them and access to doctors they trusted. And Obamacare was sabotaged. Funding streams set up to pay for the plan were postponed or canceled, and too few healthy young people signed up to balance out the sick and/or older people who did enroll.
But Obamacare also did some very positive things: It provided Medicaid and subsidized private insurance for more than 20 million people, outlawed awful plans that provided insufficient coverage, outlawed rejection of customers based on pre-existing conditions and allowed children to stay on their parents’ policies until age 26.
Somehow, the American Health Care Act crafted by House Speaker Paul Ryan and endorsed by President Donald Trump addressed few of Obamacare’s shortfalls, but hollowed out nearly all the good. The GOP plan seemingly did so to create a $300 billion tax cut for millionaires. And the intense horse-trading that went on before Thursday’s vote was postponed only made the GOP plan more toxic, dropping the requirement of essential benefits such as coverage for hospital stays, emergency services and maternity care any insurance policy ought to offer and and eroding the deficit-reducing benefits of the plan by $185 billion.
The Republicans crafted a narrow bill centered on tax cuts no Democrat can support. House Speaker Paul Ryan became a prisoner of the GOP Freedom Caucus, which wanted to end basic coverages, and to include a dreadful, unconstitutional New York-specific amendment that would have cost the state $2.3 billion in Medicaid funding.
The best plan would come up with fixes that heal the shortcomings of Obamacare without costing 24 million people their coverage. This isn’t it. The GOP needs to start over and do better.