The Senate Might Be Trouble

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House Republicans have the D.C. press onboard with the idea that they’re going to push through “Repeal and Delay” in the first weeks of the Trump administration and Medicare phaseout later in the year. But in an interview with the Portland Press Herald, Susan Collins seems like lukewarm or a no on both. (Lauren Fox has more on the story here.)

Without making a hard commitment, Collins told the paper she is not inclined to support plans to ‘privatize’ Medicare.

Collins said plans to privatize Medicare – which have been proposed by Price and House Speaker Paul Ryan – have many problems, and she’s voted against similar ideas. Privatizing Medicare would provide skimpier benefits and be more costly to seniors, critics say.

“Suffice it to say I have a number of reservations,” Collins said Friday during an interview by phone. “A complete upending of a program (Medicare) that by and large serves seniors well is not something that appeals to me.”

Just as interesting, she seems like a no on “repeal and delay”. Note that she has not and does not support Obamacare. But her focus is not on repeal but on safeguarding the health insurance of people who gained it under Obamacare.

Collins said her “number one” goal for any ACA repeal effort would be to protect people who have purchased Affordable Care Act marketplace insurance. That group includes about 10 million people, while Medicaid expansion covers an additional 15-18 million. Maine is one of 19 states that has not expanded Medicaid. The uninsured rate has plummeted in the U.S. since the ACA took effect.

“You can’t just drop insurance for 84,000 people,” Collins said, referring to people who have signed up for ACA insurance in Maine.

Not surprisingly, Collins seems to associate herself with Lamar Alexander, who chairs the committee through which all health care policy changes will need to go. Alexander has said Obamacare could take “years” to repeal. And beyond these open-ended comments he has made clear that you cannot repeal the law without first having a plan to replace it.

The organizing principle of all Obamacare politics going back six years has been that Republicans oppose it, have no idea of what can replace it and are unwilling to openly say that they want the system to go back to how it was before 2010. That is how you get to “Repeal and We’ll Get Back To You.” The Ryan/Trump plan seems to be to repeal the law, let the system collapse, with collateral damage for lots of people who were not directly affected by Obamacare and hope that somehow Democrats get blamed for it.

Collins and Alexander are two senators disinclined to sign on to that plan. There are plenty of signs that there are more in this category. And the GOP majority looks likely to be just 52. Not many votes to spare.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.
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