When Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a hastily crafted alternative was scuttled last week, two things became clear.
First, after seven years of decrying “Obamacare” and more than 50 votes to amend or repeal the health care plan, the GOP had failed to craft a palatable replacement. The American Health Care Act instantly became a historically unpopular piece of legislation, with just 17 percent of the public favoring the plan in polls taken just before its consideration by the House.
Second, the divisions among the Republicans in Washington mean that any serious effort at amending or replacing the ACA can only come from bipartisan work on amendments and alternatives, work that needs to be done thoughtfully and transparently.
Immediately after the GOP plan was pulled, Ryan stated that “Obamacare is the law of the land” for the foreseeable future. President Donald Trump, who had supported the bill, said he would let Obamacare “explode,” then replace it with something different.
But standing by and watching insurance premiums and health care costs rise isn’t governing, it’s vindictive.
Obamacare is not without its flaws. Even most Democrats who have supported the plan since its adoption acknowledge that changes need to be made and appear to be willing to work to fix the ACA in a good faith, bipartisan effort.
It is unclear whether Ryan and other Republican House leaders are willing to make that effort. But failure to act in a cooperative manner will likely lead to another stalemate if a new health plan is crafted to appease a narrow segment of the Republicans in the House. Such a plan would almost certainly be defeated in the Senate.
Instead, leaders on both sides of the aisle should come together with various stakeholders to craft legislation that moves health care in this country forward.