While Congress seems to scared to repeal Obamacare because they don’t know how to replace it, the President has sped up the process.
A plank of Donald Trump’s campaign was to repeal Obamacare. The problem is that he also promised to replace it. That seems to put him in a bind depending on how popular he wants his replacement to be. Congressional Republicans face even more of a problem. They are paralyzed trying to make everyone happy.
The main dividing line is between centrist-minded lawmakers urging caution and deliberation — Alexander is a leader of that faction — and conservatives demanding action now.
It appeared that the take-it-slow camp was winning out just last weekend. Republicans increasingly gravitated toward an approach that would stuff as many replacement provisions into a repeal bill as possible, taking advantage of a parliamentary tool that allows them to avoid a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. But that approach takes time — for one, to figure out whether the proposal complies with Senate rules — and the House Freedom Caucus grew antsy.
Now the Freedom Caucus — in tandem with Paul, who’s been meeting with the rowdy band of conservatives regularly — are pushing for another vote on a 2015 repeal bill vetoed by President Barack Obama. That was originally the starting point for Republicans after the election. But now, some Republican senators are wary, because there’s no guarantee it would be replaced with something satisfactory to millions of their constituents.
The divide has put Republican leaders in a serious jam.
“It’s hard,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “If it were just up to me, I’d have the plan tomorrow.”
Ryan tried to offer a soothing message to Senate Republicans on Tuesday. He laid out a timeline that would have the House GOP start the repeal process by the end of February and pass a bill by the end of March, attendees said. Vice President Mike Pence also attended the meeting but said nothing about Obamacare, senators said.
But Ryan’s reassurances only served to paper over real differences of opinion among Republicans. The party has little room to maneuver, with a narrow 52-48 majority in the Senate and a bloc of Freedom Caucus members in the House that could, in theory, block the GOP’s repeal efforts.
Obama did not hesitate to lie to the American people, promising that no one would be forced to lose their doctor or policy. I don’t approve of that lie, but at least Obama was willing to take action even though some would be unhappy with him.
There’s no way to unwind this horrible, imploding law without making people unhappy.
Donald Trump may have realized that.
Despite what may be his own confusion over “repeal and replace,” Donald Trump may have irrevocably repealed Obamacare in its most important aspect. It looks like the mandate is no longer mandatory!
Reason magazine’s blog explains:
The health law’s individual mandate requires everyone to either maintain qualifying health coverage or pay a tax penalty, known as a “shared responsibility payment.” The IRS was set to require filers to indicate whether they had maintained coverage in 2016 or paid the penalty by filling out line 61 on their form 1040s. Alternatively, they could claim exemption from the mandate by filing a form 8965.
For most filers, filling out line 61 would be mandatory. The IRS would not accept 1040s unless the coverage box was checked, or the shared responsibility payment noted, or the exemption form included. Otherwise they would be labeled “silent returns” and rejected.
Instead, however, filling out that line will be optional.
Earlier this month, the IRS quietly altered its rules to allow the submission of 1040s with nothing on line 61.
When Democrats say the law needs to be fixed, they want penalties for not obeying the mandate to be increased. Donald Trump, by ordering agencies to provide relief from Obamacare, has done the opposite.
This means that the individual exchanges are going to die even faster. Other insurance companies will pull out of the marketplace just like Humana did.
We’re not out of the woods yet. The IRS reserves the right to change policy.
The IRS says it still maintains the option to follow up with those who elect not to indicate their coverage status, although it’s not clear what circumstances might trigger a follow up.
But I highly doubt Trump is going to want stories to get out about the IRS investigating people for not buying insurance. This is “game over” for Obamacare.
Congress had better figure out what to do quickly. They don’t have much time.