Republicans are about to play a game of chicken with 20 million Americans’ healthcare.
GOP lawmakers are planning to repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, in 2017 but delay the the rollback by up to three years to draft a replacement plan, according to Politico.
Republicans have long wanted to repeal the ACA, and now with Donald Trump headed to the White House, they’ll likely get their wish.
The problem is that many parts of the law – such as the provision that insurers can’t deny coverage based on a preexisting condition – are popular with Americans, and nearly 20 million people have accessed healthcare plans through the ACA.
To avoid political repercussions from doing away with those popular aspects, GOP lawmakers, with the support of the Trump administration, are planning to set a three-year time frame on the repeal and replacement of the ACA, according to Rachael Bade and Burgess Everett at Politico.
The clock set by the Obamacare repeal law would, much like the so-called fiscal cliff in 2013, put pressure on lawmakers to compromise on a new healthcare bill. If no compromise is found, the repeal would happen and leave the 20 million people who currently have insurance through the ACA without coverage.
The thinking is that this would not only give impetus to Republicans to streamline various existing replacement proposals, but also put political pressure on Democrats to sign onto a replacement or put 20 million out of coverage. It also allows Republicans to pin any failure to pass a replacement on Democrats for not going along with their plan.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Politico the three-year delay makes sense because when there’s “a date certain that something’s going away … you know you have to have something done.”
Republicans could immediately repeal the parts of the law dealing with the budget, such as funding for the Medicaid expansion and state exchanges, with a simple majority vote.
Of note, this would also push the repeal date past the midterm elections in 2018, avoiding any political fallout if a replacement is not found in time.