As congressional Republicans eagerly take steps to abolish Obamacare, several moderate Senate Democrats have asked their GOP colleagues to consider bipartisan improvements before trashing the entire health care law.
Otherwise, they said, the economic and personal “chaos” triggered by repeal will be the Republicans’ responsibility.
“Repealing this law will have immediate negative impacts on the people we represent and the economy as a whole,” the group said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other senior GOP lawmakers. “Unfortunately, outright repeal means that an estimated 30 million people would lose their health coverage.”
Led by Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, their party’s 2016 vice presidential nominee, the Democrats said repeal would double the number of uninsured Americans and expose “them and their families to new financial risks if they become ill.”
The 13 Democrats who signed letter include several, like Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who face re-election in 2018 and are from states won by President-elect Donald Trump.
In a call with reporters Thursday morning, McCaskill candidly acknowledged that she has no hope that any Senate Republican would be open to anything short of erasing the 7-year-old law altogether. She said the letter served as a marker that Democrats were open to talking about improvements but Republicans turned deaf ears.
“We don’t want anyone to think we think the law is perfect,” McCaskill said. “They have been more interested in political leverage than actually improving it. They have been very clear: There is no stopping repeal of Obamacare, so that is what I think is going to happen. The chaos that will ensue in one-sixth of our economy is on their doorstep.”
Repealing President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, which extended medical insurance to millions of Americans, as well as other benefits, has long been an objective for congressional Republicans. Just three days into the new Congress, as Republicans will control both the legislative and executive branches, the effort is already underway.
President-elect Donald Trump supports repeal, though he has voiced support for some of the law’s more popular provisions. But Trump also nominated a strong Obamacare critic, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga. – an orthopedic surgeon – to run the Department of Health and Human Services, which wields a great deal of influence over the law’s rules and regulations.
Obamacare supporters, however, point out that for as long as Republicans have railed against the Affordable Care Act, and for the many repeal votes they have taken – more than 60 – they have never come up with a viable alternative.
Even now, the Republicans’ strategy appear to be hold the vote to make good on a long-standing promise to their conservative and tea party base. They would delay the impact to insurance holders before the 2018 congressional elections, or even the 2020 presidential election.
The hope would be to give the GOP time to craft its own plan, as well as avoid the potential political fallout when many voters realize their health insurance has disappeared and look around for someone to blame.