The Senate is back in session. They’ll go to work on the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. Or we should say, Republicans will go to work. Democrats will sit on the sidelines and complain.
Most Republican leaders are skeptical that anything can get done before the July 4th break or even before August’s month-long recess. The Trump administration — and in particular Vice President Mike Pence — wants it done and done quickly. Several things will make that difficult starting with the enormous unpopularity of the bill Republicans in the House sent over a few weeks ago.
The unpopularity is with many moderate Republicans in the Senate and with many consumers. A tracking poll released by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Kaiser Health says 55% of Americans have a negative view of the House bill. And equal number want the Senate to dump it or make major changes. Just 8% of those polled want the House version passed.
Breaking it down by political party:
• 66% of Republicans want the Senate to pass the House bill
• 78% of Democrats view the Affordable Care Act positively
• 48% of Independents like the ACA
• 30% of Independents like the House bill
Kaiser also looked at the popularity numbers for ObamaCare and found 49% view it positively compared to just 42% with a negative view. Spokesman Drew Altman said, “There is nothing in this poll, that if you were in the Senate, would cause you to rush out and pass the House bill.”
One of the biggest problems facing Republicans in the Senate is the whether to keep the House’s $664 billion in tax cuts that are repealed in the House bill. They stretch from the Cadillac tax to investment income.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah laughed at the reluctance of some of his Republican colleagues. He says those taxes all must go and they have to go soon or the party will be very embarrassed. Why? The party has spent a better part of the last seven years trying to get it repealed.
“We should not be treating the Obamacare taxes as a smorgasbord, picking and choosing which ones to keep and which to discard. I don’t think there is a single tax increase in Obamacare that has enjoyed support on this Republican side,” Hatch said.
Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana — who along with Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins — has authored the Patient Freedom Act. It’s an alternative that’s more or less in the middle between the Draconian House bill and ObamaCare. He and Collins think President Trump’s pledge to give the American people a healthcare plan to be proud of ought to be honored.
“President Trump’s contract with the voter, when he was running, was that he would continue coverage caring for pre-existing conditions, eliminating mandates but also lowering premiums. If we think that Trump’s contract with the voters is important to us, then the fiscally conservative thing to do is to pay for it,” Cassidy said in a statement.
To keep Collins in the fold and to placate Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Mitch McConnell and the other very conservative Republicans are going to have to keep some of those taxes to pay for a better repeal and replacement plan.
As for the president? These days it’s hard to figure out where Trump stands on the issue.
Stan Collender is the executive vice president Qorvis MSL Group. He is also a former congressional budget aide. He said, “This is undoubtedly one of the things that has to be driving Mitch McConnell crazy. It’s the key difference between the House and Senate Republicans. Tea Party members of the House want to cut taxes all the time, any way they can on any legislation. The Senate is willing to be more moderate and almost has to be, given its constituency.”
As to what direction all this will go? We’ll keep you posted.
Source links: The Washington Post, Insurance Business America