By Brenda Flanagan
“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act I’m standing here today alive,” said Jeff Jeans.
The cancer survivor at Speaker Paul Ryan’s town hall last night, asked the question on everyone’s mind.
“Why would you repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement?” he asked.
“We wouldn’t do that. We want to replace it with something better,” Ryan replied.
The Republican-led Congress started the repeal and replace process this week. Both the Senate and House voted to approve a budget resolution that does not repeal the ACA but does pave the way. It instructs committees to write a bill with directions about how to repeal and replace Obamacare. As always, the devil is in the details, and Democrats claim their opponents don’t have ready-made options to offer.
“They have no replacement for this and they’re going to be forced to put together something with glue and tacks in order to present it in the two or three weeks after we pass a bunch of reconciliations,” Congressman Bill Pascrell said.
“They’re just ideologues,” said Congressman Frank Pallone. “They want to repeal this. They have no intention of ever replacing it, in my opinion. And they want to return to the good ‘ole days when insurance companies controlled the market. That’s what we’re going to have — repeal and run.”
“I just want to make sure we don’t make the same mistake again. There are real people, real families involved in this,” said Congressman Tom MacArthur.
Unlike many Republicans, MacArthur didn’t vote for the budget resolution although he does believe the Affordable Care Act’s unsustainable and should be repealed — but not without a crystal clear replacement. MacArthur said the new health care plan should include coverage for pre-existing conditions, and for children until they turn 26. But disagreements could prolong the debate.
He said, “This is Congress. The problems will be everywhere. There’ll be problems on what gets repealed. There’ll be problems on what taxes get rolled back. There’ll be problems on what happens to the Medicaid expansion people. We have to go fast enough to fix what’s imploding, but I want to go slow enough that we answer those questions before we start dismantling anything.”
Currently, there’s no discernible timeline. President-elect Donald Trump expects to submit a plan after his nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary is confirmed.
“It will be repeal and replace. It will be essentially simultaneously. It will be various segments, you understand, but will most likely be on the same day or the same week, but probably the same day. Could be the same hour,” Trump said.
But Republicans shouldn’t expect a whole lot of help from Democrats, according to Pascrell.
“Because this is the opening salvo in the fight that we feel that’s needed to preserve the ACA. And we’re not going to solve their problems. They didn’t cooperate with us and we’re going to try to cooperate where we can with them,” Pascrell said.
Speaker Ryan said he’s committed to doing repeal and replace on the same day and that it would probably happen within the first 100 days of Trump’s taking office. Meanwhile, New Jersey Democrats are planning a big rally in support of the Affordable Care Act on Sunday. Ironically, that’s also the deadline to enroll in Obamacare.