The “Skinny Repeal” and How “Party Loyalism” Is Influencing Healthcare Reform Efforts

On July 27th, the GOP’s “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act — more commonly known as “Obamacare” — was rejected due to unanimous opposition by Senate Democrats, as well as negative votes from three Republican senators, including Arizona senator John McCain.

The “skinny repeal” would have set the fine for not having insurance at zero dollars, which means that the contentious individual mandate that is one of the ACA’s characteristic features would have been all but repealed. It also would have allowed states to determine what essential health benefits are, as well as the acceptable out-of-pocket spending limit; defunded Planned Parenthood and reapportioned the funds allotted to the popular abortion provider to federally-qualified health centers (FQHCs) instead; increased the contribution limit to health savings accounts (HSAs); and repealed the employer mandate, another controversial feature of the ACA. Senate Republicans considered it a good compromise, but Senate Democrats did not, and some even called their Republican colleagues and attempted to convince them to vote against the act. Only three Republicans — Senators Susan Collins (ME), John McCain (AZ), and Lisa Murkowski (AK) — sided with the Democrats in opposition to the act, though, which illustrates how much “party loyalism” exists in the Senate.

I’m disappointed that the “skinny repeal” didn’t pass, but I’m not surprised. When Trump first started talking about repealing Obamacare, I said that I didn’t think he would ever do it. I still don’t think that the ACA will be repealed or significantly restructured… unless Republicans obtain a larger majority in Congress, that is, because due to the intense partisanship that exists in our current government, it is highly unlikely that any Democrats will change their minds on the issue of healthcare reform. If Republicans cannot convince Democrats to vote alongside them, all of their proposals will die — either early on in the legislative process, on the floor of the House, or during a Senate filibuster — just like the American Health Care Act (AHCA). It is just a fact that, in the United States, without a significant majority or bipartisan support, legislation almost always dies due to institutional barriers. Obama’s Affordable Care Act was passed without support from Republicans, and Republicans in Congress are trying to pass healthcare reform bills the same way — but their chances of success are slim to none.

Our chances of passing a healthcare reform bill with solely Republican support are not great, given the current ratio of Democrats to Republicans in Congress, but I anticipate additional attempts to repeal and replace the ACA. We witnessed Americans overwhelmingly reject liberal ideals in the elections that took place last year, what with Donald Trump winning the presidential election and Republicans winning [albeit narrowly] the majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and as our political culture changes, so, too, does the general public’s opinion on healthcare reform. And with the rejections of Democratic candidates comes the rejection of liberal ideas that, so far, have, at best, only marginally improved our ailing and fragmented healthcare system.

I’ve taken a class or two on healthcare, but I’m no expert on the subject — and I won’t pretend to be. Obama’s Affordable Care Act spelled disaster for America’s middle class, though, and resulted in a dramatic increase in healthcare spending — so if I were a Senator, I would have voted for the “skinny repeal.” I agree with the reapportioning the funds currently allocated to Planned Parenthood clinics to FQHCs (which serve more women than Planned Parenthood does, anyway) and with repealing the employer mandate, and I don’t see what harm increasing the contribution limit to HSAs could do. I would’ve liked to see what we could have done with it.

If it were up to me, I’d scrap our entire healthcare and health insurance systems and start all over. I’d like to see us implement something similar to the Dutch system(s)… but alas, it’s not up to me, so I — and you, too — have to watch, virtually helpless, as Democrats and Republicans in Congress fight each other tooth and nail. It would be frustrating if it weren’t so pathetic, honestly.

Since the failure of the “skinny repeal,” I’ve been seeing a lot of Republicans talking about “standing strong” and “not compromising with liberals and their ridiculous ideals” — but at this point, I don’t see what other choice we have. We have to come up with something that can garner bipartisan support, and congressional Democrats have to abandon the concept of “party loyalism.” If we/they don’t, we’ll all be stuck with the disaster that is Obamacare.


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