If any issue on Capitol Hill represents a Rubik’s Cube for policymakers, it’s the Affordable Care Act. Many Americans say they’re all for repeal of Obamacare — at least, till you start breaking the ACA down to its individual components. That’s why Republicans don’t need to go off and make the same mistakes Democrats made back in 2010. Republicans must be sure any reform or overhaul of the ACA is strongly bipartisan.
Yes, Republicans control the House, Senate and, within several days, the White House. But while President-elect Trump has signaled his eagerness to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he also has insisted on keeping some of its virtues most popular with Americans — particularly provisions that ensure citizens with pre-existing conditions (130 million of us presently) are not prevented from obtaining health insurance. And that people can keep children on their health insurance till the latter turn 26.
Other questions require scrutiny as well, including whether reform will allow health-care premiums for people over age 55 to again skyrocket — the health care law at present restrains this to a degree. Also, will Republicans demand gender-based equality be built into insurance regulations? Before the Affordable Care Act came along, insurers charged women up to 50 percent more in premiums than men. Is that fair? And what of mental health coverage?
This is the time for real bipartisan thinking, something Republican Congressman Bill Flores, whose district includes Waco, talked about shortly before Congress gaveled into session. He said Republicans want to replace Obamacare with a plan that increases access and improves affordability, “and you have a couple of secondary issues that you have to deal with like: What do you do with those with pre-existing conditions? So if your goal is to achieve these three objectives, it behooves us to reach across the aisle. There may be a good idea there.”
We like that attitude. As Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn has noted repeatedly in interviews and public addresses, one reason the Affordable Care Act was doomed to failure is because it passed with no Republican input or support in 2010, largely consigning it to the dustbin if Republicans claimed Congress and the White House. We’re glad Republicans are dedicated to health care reforms to replace it. We encourage Democrats to roll up their sleeves and try to salvage the best parts of the ACA.
If it’s any consolation to Democrats who lament what might seem the death of Obamacare, remember one reason Republicans are so desperately working on a replacement is because, in the final analysis, at least some aspects of Obamacare appeal to everyday Americans, including those who don’t even like Obama. And Republicans fear those constituents’ wrath when they suddenly discover their health care costs aren’t going down after the GOP supposedly “fixed” it.