Republicans Lost The Healthcare Debate
And they’re perfectly fine with that.
About midway through a so-called “listening session” at a medical supply company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, featuring Vice President Mike Pence and Governor Scott Walker, a surprising and worrisome truth became evident: Republicans have lost the healthcare debate – and they’re perfectly fine with that.
After brief remarks by the company’s founder and CEO, and the typical barrage of exaggerations and half-truths from Walker, extolling the virtues of both his refusal to accept federal expansion funds for Medicaid and his decision to lower the state’s eligibility threshold from 133% of the poverty level to exactly 100%, Vice President Pence took the stage. He was greeted with what could best be described as a perfectly acceptable level of fanfare by the assembled crowd of party operatives, local Republican legislators, cherry-picked small business owners, and a smattering of curious onlookers, myself included. By the time Pence had finished his remarks, leaving no opportunity for questions or comment from the audience, the Republican strategy to sell their health plan had become clear.
Second, promise to keep the popular parts of the Affordable Care Act. They promise to include protections for pre-existing conditions, and to “reform and strengthen” Medicaid while knowing full well that the bill Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to push through the Senate in the very near future does neither of those things.
In essence, Pence used the very content of the Affordable Care Act to justify its replacement. A bill that none of us have seen, nobody seems to like, and yet the majority of both houses of Congress seem to think is essential. Republicans know the House repeal bill is a disaster with voters. They know the Affordable Care Act is more popular than ever. They know that when polled on numerous key components of the law, President Obama’s signature policy achievement, a strong majority of Americans support them. They know this so well that they’re willing to campaign for their own bill by promising to keep these components intact, even if they have no intention of doing so. Republicans have lost the healthcare debate. Sometime this summer, we’ll find out if that matters. At the moment, there’s better than even odds it won’t.