(A version of this Health Alert was published by Forbes.)
Since the election, there has been a lot of sturm und drang around what the alternative to Obamacare will look like. It looks like we can be highly confident the Republican-majority Congress will repeal Obamacare very quickly starting in January. However, there is some question about what exactly will be repealed.
Last year’s repeal bill, H.R. 3762, repealed Obamacare’s spending and taxes, but not its over regulation of health insurance. Further, Republican politicians have promised not only to repeal Obamacare, but replace it with a better payment system than existed previously. People’s primary concern about the previous system was that people in the individual market could be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions or charged higher premiums as a result of underwriting.
Politically, it would not be possible for Republicans to walk back from this commitment. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s November tracking poll:
Among those who want to see the ACA repealed, 38 percent (meaning 10 percent of the public overall) change their opinion after hearing the argument made by proponents that repealing the ACA would mean that insurance companies would be able to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
Trump voters react similarly, with a larger share changing their opinion after hearing that repealing the ACA would mean that insurance companies would be able to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions (27 percent) than changing their opinion after hearing that more than 20 million Americans could lose their coverage (8 percent).
The economics of health insurance make this very difficult to achieve without some sort of mandate or penalty for not maintaining coverage, which is politically unpopular – and especially toxic to Republicans. This poses a challenge; and we all know Republican politicians have promised to solve this for six years without result. Fortunately, we also have recent evidence that Republicans can lead and succeed on complex health reform legislation.
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