Over the past several years, the GOP has enlisted the “Democrats Against Obamacare” caucus to help provide the appearance of bipartisanship in its effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and make significant Affordable Care Act Changes. Unfortunately for Republicans, many such Democratic lawmakers were ousted in the 2014 midterm elections. Now, as The New York Times reports, the “G.O.P. Faces Tougher Job Finding Democrats to Repeal [Obama’s] Health Law”.
The above-referenced article notes that only two of ten Democrats that supported dismantling Obamacare will keep seats on the Hill next year: Collin Peterson (MN 7th) and Dan Lipinski (IL 3rd). Blue Dog Collin Peterson is a conservative democrat who voted with the GOP 23 times, and Dan Lipinski is a rare Democrat that opposes abortion. NYT notes that “Republicans have argued that the law uses public money to subsidize abortion coverage.”
Two more conservative Democrats who have voted to change (not repeal) the ACA – Jim Costa of California and Ron Barber of Arizona – remain in House races too-close-to-call, nearly two weeks after the last election, though there are half a dozen or so more conservative Dems being eyed by the GOP for support in next session’s healthcare battles to come.
While Republicans now control both federal legislative bodies, a push to make serious Affordable Care Act changes or repeal the law would still be difficult, if not impossible. First, Republicans will not enjoy a veto-proof majority in the US Senate next year, so a full repeal could be easily rejected by the President. However, as that NYT article states, “more likely to get the Democrats’ cooperation are bills that would alter or eliminate parts of the law. Some of the possibilities include changing the definition of full-time employees from those who work 30 hours a week to 40 hours; repealing a federal tax on medical devices; and eliminating an independent board on Medicare spending.”
Important to consider is that despite problems with sign-up websites and partisan concerns, a great deal of the American population enjoys the Affordable Care Act and the coverage it provides. The cohort of poor Americans who lacked health insurance before the ACA passed is growing on both sides of the aisle, making a full repeal less and less politically feasible, regardless of the party controlling the country’s executive office. In 2012, a Reuters-Ipsos poll found:
- 44% of Americans supported the law, with 56% against. By party affiliation, 75% of Democrats, 27% of Independents, and 14% of Republicans favored the law overall.
- 82% favored banning insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
- 61% favored allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26.
- 72% supported requiring companies with more than 50 employees to provide insurance for their employees.
Today, the ACA faces its lowest approval rating ever, at 37% (Gallup). This tells us that while there have been problems with the ACA roll-out (along with other, fundamental concerns with the law), the American population seeks health insurance assistance and reform. Whether the ACA had the best formulation at its debut remains to be seen, however unlikely. Fraught with Blue “Dogs” as it may be, I encourage bipartisan support for changes to the health law: with repeal out of sight, the American health care system will drudge and crawl its way into the 21st century, no doubt.