All grassroots conservatives agree that Obamacare is a disaster. Health insurance premiums increased by 25 percent for 2017. One-third of counties in the United States are only one health insurance company exit away from not having any access to private health insurance coverage on the Obamacare exchanges.
Only 7 of 23 Obamacare co-ops, which were supposed to function as liberal alternatives to a public option, still remain open. It’s no wonder that Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini recently commented that Obamacare is in “a death spiral.”
For nearly seven years, grassroots conservatives have fought for the repeal of Obamacare. They worked to help Republicans win control of the House of Representatives in 2010, take back the Senate in 2014 and put a Republican in the White House in 2016. Now is the time to full Republicans’ campaign promises “by pulling out Obamacare root and branch,” as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) once said.
In 2016, a Republican-controlled Congress sent President Barack Obama the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act. The legislation, which used budget reconciliation to bypass a Senate filibuster, repealed the worst parts of Obamacare: its taxes, tax and cost-sharing subsidies, and Medicaid expansion within a two-year window. It also zeroed out Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates.
The bill had overwhelming Republican support. In fact, only five Republicans, including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), voted against the bill. It would have saved taxpayers $512 billion over ten years, according to the House Budget Committee and a handy FAQ provided by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who now chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the two committees that worked on the law.
At the time of the bill’s passage, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) made it clear that the bill was a sign of things to come under a different set of circumstances. “This is the closest that we have come to repealing Obamacare. And now we are sending that repeal to the president’s desk,” said Ryan. “And we have now shown that with a Republican president, there is a clear path to repealing Obamacare without 60 votes in the United States Senate.”
However, then-House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) noted that the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act was only one part of the process. He reminded Congress that developing a patient-centered replacement would be another vital step in implementing an effective health care system.
“Repealing Obamacare is only a first step. Congress must pursue health care reforms that respect and protect the doctor-patient relationship, encourage innovation, and make quality care affordable and accessible for all Americans,” said Dr. Price, who now serves as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. “We can address the tremendous challenges in America’s health care system through policies that put patients, families and doctors in charge, not Washington, D.C.”
After Obama vetoed the bill, Ryan reiterated that the path forward for repeal had already been laid by Congress. “We have shown now that there is a clear path to repealing Obamacare without 60 votes in the Senate,” he said. “So next year, if we’re sending this bill to a Republican president, it will get signed into law.”
Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee rolled out their recommendations to repeal and replace Obamacare, collectively known as the “American Health Care Act.” While much of the bill echoes what passed in the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act, other parts of the recommendations are far too similar to Obamacare to gain conservative support.
In the event that the American Health Care Act falls apart, there is a natural backup plan, the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act. This bill is perfectly acceptable to move through this Congress because of the divide in the conservative movement on replace.
Moving forward with repeal based on what passed in the previous Congress will make the conservative base happy and motivated. It will also give a lot of energy to support the next big battle on President Trump and Republicans’ agenda: fundamental tax reform.
If we’re going to have one bullet at repeal, let’s make sure we make it count. Moving forward on a bill modeled after the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act is a win-win for everyone, including President Trump and Republican leaders in Congress.
Moving forward on repeal now has the benefit of putting pressure on Senate Democrats, ten of whom are up for reelection in 2018 in states Trump won, to defend their inaction on working with Republicans to come up with a patient-centered replacement. It also gets congressional Republicans out of their chronic habit of negotiating with themselves.
This is the one thing on which grassroots conservatives and House Republican leaders agree: Obamacare must be repealed. We simply disagree on how to replace it. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have introduced legislation modeled after the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act.
With such strong support in the previous Congress, the passage of Paul and Jordan’s repeal bill should be a no-brainer and an opportunity for unity inside the Republican Party. We can still discuss the details of a replacement and fine-tune it for the American people after passing repeal. But we must use this critical moment to begin the important process of throwing Obamacare in the dustbin of history.
Adam Brandon is the president of FreedomWorks.