“Obamacare is the law of the land.” House Speaker Paul Ryan’s acquiescence on his seven-year promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act was the greatest legislative defeat for a president in living memory. Disregarding the fact that the loss came with both houses of Congress under Republican control, Trump’s inability to overcome the House Freedom Caucus’s objections proves, once more, a fundamental fact about this president: Donald Trump is a fraud.
Trump may have “written” The Art of the Deal, but he’s obviously never read it. The Apprentice was a nine-year exercise in Trump criticizing people for making bad deals. On the campaign trail, he constantly touted his ability as a dealmaker. He’s built his entire reputation on it. So where did all that self-professed skill go when 30 far-right Congressmen stood in the way of Trump’s biggest campaign promise? To hear the president tell it, “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”
The American Health Care Act (Trumpcare), was destined to crash and burn. The Affordable Care Act was debated and tweaked over a full year before it was brought to a vote. Ryan and Trump, so eager to “repeal and replace,” as they continued to remind us was their goal, rushed every step of the legislative process, one which is specifically designed to allow for slow, incremental change. Despite Ryan’s assertion that “We’ve been dreaming of [capping Medicaid] since [conservative pundit, Rich Lowry] and I were drinking out of a keg,” and the seven years he spent railing against the Affordable Care Act, he apparently never thought to begin drafting his sacred replacement bill until after Trump’s inauguration. Trumpcare’s unpopularity amongst Republicans nearly rivaled Obamacare’s. The only difference was their opposition to the Affordable Care Act was based on a deep-seated commitment to the obstruction of Barack Obama, while opposing the AHCA was done purely for electoral survival.
Obamacare is unpopular. That unpopularity is valid in some ways. Premiums have gone up for many people. Insurance companies are leaving the exchanges. Obama’s famous promise, “You keep your plan. You keep your doctor,” didn’t hold up. But the law did achieve a major goal: It got more than 20 million previously uninsured people onto some form of health insurance plan.
This is a president who is so disinterested in governance, he is knowingly hurting his base to strike a blow at a (perceived) political nemesis.
Many parts of the law are extremely popular, such as the ability for people to stay on their parents’ plans until 26, as well as doing away with “pre-existing conditions,” which may be one of the most inhumane conception the free market has ever given us. Some of that popularity even extends to the entire plan when called by its real name. Republican obfuscation was so thick, many voters claim to support a repeal of Obamacare, but not of the Affordable Care Act.
The Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of Trumpcare was abysmal. More than 24 million people would be kicked off their insurance plans, more than were covered under the ACA. The law amounted to little more than a major tax cut for the rich, disguised as health reform. While moderate deficit reduction was a plus for the law, it was simply the result of cutting services for so many people.
The inconceivable piece to all of this is that many of the very people who rely on health insurance under the ACA are the very same people who call for its destruction. Trump voters disproportionately benefit under Obamacare, and would be those most hurt by its repeal. That fact was not lost on the President. When reminded by Fox’s Tucker Carlon that “The counties who voted for you will do far worse under your plan,” Trump’s response was simply, “Oh, I know.” This is a president who is so disinterested in governance, he is knowingly hurting his base to strike a blow at a (perceived) political nemesis. If the debacle of the American Health Care Act is any indication, Trump’s remaining time in office will be some of the most unproductive in American history.
Conservative comedian PJ O’Rourke once said, “The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.” But to be fair, they just didn’t know it could be so complicated.