Is GOP finally abandoning Obamacare repeal?

Either some form of sanity or the acceptance of political reality apparently has taken hold in at least some members of the Republican Party.

According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, GOP congressional leaders are dropping their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and instead are turning their focus to issues like trade and tax reform. After five years and more than 50 votes to repeal the ACA, the repeal campaign “is essentially over,” said the story.

“And although the law remains very unpopular with GOP voters, more than 20 million Americans now depend on it for health benefits, making even some of the most conservative Republicans loath to cut off coverage,” the story said.

It’s about time.

The Republican plan to “repeal and replace” the ACA never went anywhere. Obviously, even if repeal passed a Republican House and Senate, President Obama would never sign a law repealing his signature achievement. And the “replace” part of the promise has never really materialized. The partial outlines of plans GOP lawmakers have offered always ended up being more expensive than the ACA, according to scores from the Congressional Budget Office. They also incorporated many parts of the ACA.

With more and more Americans reaping Obamacare’s benefits through first-time health insurance coverage and, expanded Medicaid, Republicans have seen the writing on the wall, or at least on the medical chart. After all:

  • The uninsured rate for U.S. adults under 65 has dropped to 11.9 percent, down from a high of 18 percent.
  • 11.7 million people have enrolled for health coverage through federal and state health exchanges.
  • 10.8 million more people and children have coverage through Medicaid or CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Plan.
  • Americans throughout the country are enjoying expanded consumer protections, such as requiring insurers to cover pre-existing conditions, extending coverage to young adults on parents’ policies through age 26, getting rid of lifetime and annual coverage limits, and many more.

Of course, some Republicans running for president apparently didn’t get the memo. As they launched their 2016 campaigns, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida still gave full-throated promises to repeal Obamacare, still claiming that it was killing jobs.

Guess they should pay more attention to news.

A recent article in Forbes, hardly a bastion of liberal thought, touted how the ACA is helping the economy with new jobs. “The Affordable Care Act, which is infusing millions of new paying customers into the economy who previously couldn’t afford medical care services, continues to boost jobs growth as the health industry emphasizes outpatient care and value-based medicine,” the story said. “In the past year alone, 363,000 jobs have been added in the health sector.”

Hardly “killing jobs,” is it, Senators?

Rubio had his own plan in Florida — Florida Health Choices. It passed in 2008 when he was speaker of the Florida House and was a no-mandate, market-based exchange. It finally went into effect in 2014 (at a cost of $2.4 million to the state) and has signed up 80 people. Not 80,000 or 8,000, or even 800, but 80. Obamacare covers 1.6 million people in Florida alone.

Cruz, of course, had to turn to coverage under the ACA when his family lost its health insurance. His wife took a leave of absence from her job at Goldman Sachs, thus losing coverage, and he had to sign up for — Obamacare.

The law still faces a challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court in King v. Burwell, in which four plaintiffs are challenging the subsidies insured individuals get through the federal exchange. They claim the law specifically offers subsidies only through state exchanges — a claim that writers of the law insist was basically a typo. A ruling is expected in June.

Even Republicans can see that a ruling in the plaintiffs’ favor would be a nightmare. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has proposed legislation to extend the aid for 18 months if that happens.

Rubio, Cruz, and a few others aside, the GOP knows the fight is over. The LA Times story quotes Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster working for Rubio. “Only 18% of Americans want to go back to the system we had before because they do not want to go back to some of the problems we had. Smart Republicans in this area get that.”

So use whatever medical metaphor you want. The treatment was successful. The medicine worked.

The Affordable Care Act — in whatever its future form might be, with needed tweaks — seems to be here to stay.

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