News & Politics

President Trump on 'Obamacare Lite:' There Will Be Multiple 'Phases'

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Even before Congressional Republicans revealed their plan to replace Obamacare on Monday, many conservatives had expressed concerns that the bill would become “Obamacare Lite” — more a modification than a full “repeal and replace.” For those unsatisfied with the health reform blueprint, President Donald Trump tweeted an answer Tuesday morning.

“Don’t worry, getting rid of state lines, which will promote competition, will be in phase 2 & 3 of healthcare rollout,” the president declared via Twitter.

Trump’s suggestion that the Republican replacement for Obamacare will be a process might be a belated attempt to assuage conservative opposition to the new health plan, attacked as “TrumpCare” or “Obamacare Lite.”

The attacks were vicious, and not without merit.

“The very first thing – THE FIRST THING – we were told is that we’re going to REPEAL and REPLACE. The new law itself starts with ‘amends,'” Joe Cunningham, a senior contributing editor at RedState, posted on Twitter. “As in, it AMENDS the Obamacare. Which is not what Republican voters have been promised all this time, now is it?”

RedState’s Caleb Howe was even more blunt: “The House has released their plan for replacing Obamacare, and if you were expecting some kind of full repeal like what every Republican in the galaxy has been promising for the last thousand years, forget it. This isn’t that.”

Daniel Horowitz, senior editor at Conservative Review, said the new health plan was even worse than “Obamacare-lite.”

The first thing to understand about the GOP healthcare bill is that it is not merely Obamacare-lite or a bad “replacement” bill. It doesn’t repeal the core of Obamacare in the first place. In fact, the few parts that it repeals or tweaks within a few years will actually intensify the death spiral of Obamacare when mixed with the core regulatory structure, exacerbated by the subsidies that they do keep. And this time, the GOP will own it politically. All of it.

But it wasn’t only conservative bloggers attacking the bill. Three conservative Republican senators posted a message in tandem on Twitter: “2 yrs ago, the GOP Congress voted to repeal Obamacare. That 2015 repeal language should be the floor, the bare minimum. #FullRepeal”

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Utah Senator Mike Lee, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul each pushed the same message.

This is significant, since any Republican plan could only afford to lose two Republican votes in the U.S. Senate and still pass.

Paul joined North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows in calling for an immediate repeal of Obamacare, and debating a replacement later. “We own repeal. We ran on it. It is our idea. We have to pass it cleanly, now,” Paul and Meadows declared in a Fox News op-ed Monday night.

“We should debate all of these replacement ideas on the same day we pass Repeal, but we will have to separate the debate into at least two different bills because there is no consensus with leadership on replacement,” Paul and Meadows wrote. They attacked “Republican leadership” for supporting several parts of Obamacare:

1.     Leadership wants to keep ObamaCare-like subsidies to buy insurance but rename them refundable tax credits (families will be given up to $14,000 dollars of other people’s money)

2.  leadership wants to keep the ObamaCare Cadillac tax but rename it a tax on the top 10% of people who have the best insurance.

3.  Leadership wants to keep the individual mandate but instead of mandating a tax penalty to the government they mandate a penalty to the insurance company (can it possibly be Constitutional to mandate a penalty to a private insurance company?)

4.  Leadership wants to keep $100 billion of the insurance company subsidies from ObamaCare but call them “reinsurance”. (Why?  Because insurance companies love guaranteed issue as long as the taxpayer finances it!)

“Conservatives don’t want new taxes, new entitlements and an ‘ObamaCare Lite’ bill,” Paul and Meadows wrote. “If leadership insists on replacing ObamaCare with ObamaCare-lite, no repeal will pass.”

These two Republicans called for a clean passage of the same 2015 legislation originally supported by Republicans to repeal Obamacare.

Rather than following Trump’s plan of passing a “repeal and replace” bill which really amends Obamacare, and then supporting further modifications later on in “phase 2 & 3 of healthcare rollout,” Senator Paul and Congressman Meadows called for an immediate repeal, followed by a robust and open debate on what a replacement should look like.

This way of proceeding might be painful and certainly will be turbulent, but it is in the best interest of the nation — and the Republican Party. Republicans attacked Democrats for secret negotiations in crafting Obamacare, and especially condemned Nancy Pelosi’s infamous declaration that Congress would have to pass it to see what’s in it.

In order to really replace Obamacare, Republicans need to have a transparent debate from the beginning, not pass a faux “repeal and replace,” only to amend that later, as Trump tweeted.