When it comes to repealing and replacing Obamacare, things don’t look great right now in the Senate. President Trump has advised Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to simply repeal Obamacare and delay replacement if that’s what it takes, but the top Republican doesn’t appear too crazy about that idea. And since a full repeal would require help from the same moderates who are balking at the current Senate replacement bill, it’s hard to see how it would work in the first place.
However, there may be a way through the jungle.
Thanks to a proposal by Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, conservative senators may have a plan that can bridge the gap between the “hard right” and the “moderate right” of the Republican Party. Best of all, the White House has signaled its support of the compromise, which means President Trump would be willing to sign on if it came across his desk. The plan is to add an amendment called “Consumer Choice” to the current legislation, allowing insurance companies to sell plans that do not meet the regulatory requirements of the Affordable Care Act. As long as those companies agreed to sell at least one plan that’s open to people with pre-existing conditions, they would be allowed to sell so-called “junk insurance” on the marketplace, opening up options for young, healthy consumers who don’t need or want a more comprehensive plan.
“We hope it’s part of the process of bringing everybody together,” White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said in a Fox News interview.
In the interview, Short said the Senate was going through the same pains as the House did when the Obamacare repeal effort was struggling to find the votes. Conservative Republicans want to rip out as many of Obamacare’s regulations as possible and roll back spending while moderate Republicans are worried about how their constituents will react to measures that could take away their current health plans. Short feels that the Cruz/Lee amendment could be a way to bring the two sides together.
It would also have the benefit of lowering premiums and keeping more people in the insurance marketplace, thus negating some of the unfortunate news from the CBO report that scared away many Republicans and threatened to sink the repeal ship altogether.
It’s clear that the GOP is not ready to fully embrace the (once foundational) belief that the free market should determine supply and demand, but Cruz’s amendment would at least be a step in the right direction.