While most of the press, the progressive establishment and even some traditional conservatives have watched Trump in horror, his base has watched him with satisfaction. He’s building the wall, banning Muslims, and rounding up illegals, just like he said he would. Those voters don’t believe the charges of Russian interference and don’t care about the emerging kleptocracy since they believe the system has been rife with corruption for years.
Now, the Republicans have opened Pandora’s Box. They’re taking on health care. Clearly, they didn’t learn much from the Obamacare fight in 2009. The GOP has been bashing the program for seven years and promising to replace it when they got in power. They never said what they were going to replace it with.
Now we know. The GOP plan cuts taxes for the wealthiest people while increasing costs on the people who can least afford it—what Republicans call “freedom.” Millions of people will be priced out of the insurance market and millions more, especially older people, will see their premiums increase.
That’s not what Trump promised. He told Americans that he would make health insurance cheaper while reducing costs and expanding coverage. His advisor Kelly Anne Conway said that nobody would lose coverage under Trump’s plan. Yesterday, in what seems to be a particularly tone deaf statement, Vice-President Mike Pence said, “If you like your Obamacare, you can keep it.” Republicans bashed Obama relentlessly for his statement, “If you like your plan, you can keep it.” Expect to hear Pence’s statement again.
So far, the roll out of the so-called “repeal-and-replace” plan has been a disaster. The House Freedom Caucus rejected it outright and without support of its members the bill is probably dead. Democrats, of course, panned it. Right now, there are not enough votes in the House to pass it.
Repealing Obamacare, not Russia or the emoluments clause, might lead to Republican losses in 2018 like it did for Democrats in 2010 in the wake of the ACA and in 1994, when reform failed under Bill Clinton. Voters tend to vote on self-interest. If they’re about to pay more for insurance or lose it altogether, they’ll blame the party in power. Obamacare expanded access to care to health care to 20 million or so more Americans. Stripping it away will come with a political cost.
It’s more than just increasing the cost of health insurance or taking it from people who have it. It’s lying that will ultimately bring the GOP down. They’ve been telling Americans for seven years that the ACA is awful and that they would offer something better. Now, they’re proposing a program that will cost more for many people and become unaffordable for others, all without providing better coverage.
Republicans forget that Obamacare came about because of rampant dissatisfaction with the healthcare system. They’ve used criticism of the Affordable Care Act as a political tool without ever developing a viable alternative. Now, they face an angry Tea Party base that wants full repeal and a populist group of Trump supporters who will feel betrayed if they can’t get something better than they’ve got.
As Trump said last week, “Who knew health care could be so complicated?”