This Sunday is the the Affordable Care Act’s fourth anniversary and, in what is something of a tradition, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus wrote a scathing op-ed in USA Today on Friday to remind readers of all that the GOP believes is wrong with the law.
But it’s also a reminder that there is one piece of the law that even the GOP really, really loves and would never roll back: letting kids stay on their parents’ health plan until age 26.
“Believe it not, we can actually find some common ground. For example, I think we can agree on allowing young people to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26,” Priebus wrote. The Republicans could take the Senate — even the presidency — but that piece of Obamacare is here to stay.
It’s no surprise that the GOP has embraced what is likely the most popular provision in the 900-plus-page law. A Bloomberg News poll released earlier this month found that 73 percent of Americans support the policy. According to the Obama administration, more than 3 million young adults are insured because of it.
To their credit, Republicans have always been rather fond of the age-26 rule. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) — then a candidate — said just a few months after Obamacare was signed into law in 2010 that it was one of the few good ideas in a law that should otherwise be “scraped and replaced with better ideas.”
“The idea that people up to the age of 26 should be allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance plan, has widespread support,” Rubio said. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said something similar a few months later.
The Republican alternatives, which Priebus was talking up in his Friday column, would also maintain the age-26 rule. The Senate GOP proposal released in January kept it in place, even as it claimed to “repeal” Obamacare. If the elusive House alternative ever corporealizes, it could include it as well.
It’s further evidence that, though the hard-line conservatives still profess that they can repeal “every word” of the law, that’s not going to happen. The line that the GOP must walk now is opposing Obamacare, because that’s what their base demands, while acknowledging that, four years in, millions have benefitted from the law that has served as their ideological foil for so long.
In this new reality, as Priebus’s op-ed implicitly admits, there are some things that simply can’t be undone.