Repeal and replace, but take the time to get it right

Two months into 2017, groups backed by the Koch brothers reportedly have run out of patience with congressional Republicans over their failure to repeal Obamacare. According to the New York Times, the “Koch network,” along with conservative groups like the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, are demanding repeal and are applying pressure on GOP lawmakers to keep their promise and get it done now.

But what’s the rush? When Republicans repeal and replace Obamacare (replacement was part of the promise), the American people will hold them responsible for the new health insurance regime, just as they held Democrats responsible for the Obamacare regime — to the Dems detriment in three elections.

For this reason, and because the issue is vital quite apart from political considerations, the important thing is to get it right. It will make very little difference, either in political or policy terms, whether Obamacare is repealed and replaced next month, in September, or even a year from now (though that wait would make me nervous). It will make all the difference if the replacement regime falls well short of the public’s expectations.

It’s true that congressional Republicans aren’t starting from scratch. During the Obama years, there they formulated several repeal and replace laws and the House repealed Obamacare on multiple occasions.

However, everyone understood that the Obama-era repeal legislation would never become law. Thus, Republicans didn’t need to worry very much about its real world consequences. Now they do.

It’s also true, I assume, that some Republicans are using the complexity of replacing Obamacare and the possibility of blow back as an excuse not to do a true repeal ever. Some may never have wanted to do it; others may be spooked by the town hall meetings in which angry protesters howl at them.

And even if no Republicans were looking for a way out now, human nature is such that, at a certain point, we may well reach “now or never” time when it comes to repeal. Thus, it’s easy to understand the impatience of the Koch brothers and others who wish to strike while the iron is hot.

However, I see no basis for believing that the Spring of 2017 is the point of no return on repealing and replacing Obamacare. And I suspect, or at least hope, that expressions of impatience by conservatives are more about making sure that “repeal and replace” occurs before next year’s primary season than about trying to rush it through in the next month or two.

There should be a happy medium between rushing repeal and replace legislation into law and putting it off indefinitely.

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