The Obamacare Drama Is Not Over

The Republican Congress’s failure to repeal and replace Obamacare is of course embarrassing, and may well be a political blow to the GOP, as most expect. Still, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Congressional Republicans actually set out to save Obamacare, and not a single Democrat was willing to join in the effort.

The future of Obamacare could be grim. Having run a victory lap or two, the Associated Press now acknowledges that “Obama’s health care law still needs some patchwork.”

The health care law of the land has survived for now, but it needs help — and it needs it soon.

Soaring prices and fewer choices may greet customers when they return to the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplaces this fall, in part because insurers are facing deep uncertainty about whether the Trump administration will continue to make key subsidy payments and enforce other parts of the existing law that help control prices.

Assurances don’t look to be coming anytime soon. “As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!” President Donald Trump tweeted early Friday, soon after the Senate narrowly rejected the latest push to dismantle the Obama-era health care law.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said in a statement after the Senate vote that the Trump administration would pursue its health care goals through regulation.

President Trump is threatening to bring Obamacare down administratively:

President Donald Trump on Saturday threatened once more to end required payments to insurance companies unless lawmakers repeal and replace the Obama-era health care law.

In apparent frustration over Friday’s failure by the Senate Republican majority to pass a bill repealing parts of the Affordable Care Act, Trump tweeted: “If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!”

No Democrats voted for the GOP bill.

It should be noted that the subsidies created by rule by the Obama administration are likely illegal:

The Obama administration used its rule-making authority to set direct payments to insurers to help offset these costs. Trump inherited the payment structure, but he also has the power to end them.

The payments are the subject of a lawsuit brought by House Republicans over whether the Affordable Care Act specifically included a congressional appropriation for the money, as required under the Constitution. Trump has only guaranteed the payments through July, which ends Monday.

Trump previously said the law that he and others call “Obamacare” would collapse immediately whenever those payments stop.

Chuck Schumer’s response to the president’s threat was surprisingly lame:

“If the president refuses to make the cost sharing reduction payments, every expert agrees that premiums will go up and health care will be more expensive for millions of Americans,” Schumer said Saturday in a written statement. “The president ought to stop playing politics with people’s lives and health care, start leading and finally begin acting presidential.”

The fact is that the Democrats need Republicans to prop up their failing, Rube Goldberg-like health care scheme. Congressional Republicans tried to oblige them, but Democrats preferred the presumed political gain that would result from the GOP’s failure. Now, the Democrats need the Trump administration to bail out their pet project. I find it hard to see any reason why the administration should oblige them.

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