Some Republicans Now Think They Should Repair Obamacare, Not Repeal It

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The Hill reports that Republicans are gradually backing off their promise to repeal Obamacare:

Key Republican lawmakers are shifting their goal on ObamaCare from repealing and replacing the law to the more modest goal of repairing it.

….“I think it is more accurate to say repair ObamaCare because, for example, in the reconciliation procedure that we have in the Senate, we can’t repeal all of ObamaCare,” [Sen. Lamar] Alexander said. “ObamaCare wasn’t passed by reconciliation, it can’t be repealed by reconciliation. So we can repair the individual market, which is a good place to start.”

….Lawmakers have already started to face crowds of constituents concerned about what repeal might do to their own healthcare….Other lawmakers are worried repeal could cause chaos in the insurance market that would be politically damaging to Republicans, or simply that their constituents could lose coverage under repeal.

Hmmm. We’ll see. In any case, it turns out that Republicans are already busily trying to repair things. Indiana Rep. Larry Buschon has just introduced the State Age Rating Flexibility Act of 2017, which accomplishes one thing: it changes the age band in Obamacare from 3:1 to 5:1. This means that insurers would be able to charge older customers five times as much as they charge young people, rather than three times as much. The end result would be to lower premiums for young people and increase them for older people.

I’m not quite sure why this is such a hobbyhorse among Republicans, but it is. And it’s a weird one. Even if it’s a good idea, which is debatable, older people will obviously hate it. AARP is already calling out the dogs. And since older people tend to be Republicans, why would Republicans want to piss them off? It’s all very mysterious.

But whatever they decide to do, Republicans need to make up their minds. With everything up in the air, Aetna is now pulling out of the exchanges entirely and Molina Healthcare is pondering its options. I’ll bet every other insurer is doing the same. They need to know what Republicans plan to do before they commit to anything for 2018. And if they don’t commit, there are going to be millions of registered voters who will lose their insurance and then descend on their members of Congress like a plague of angry locusts. The clock is ticking.

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