As Republicans gear up to repeal Obamacare, a few top leaders have laid down a marker that will almost certainly be impossible to achieve: They claims their Obamacare replacement plan will cover everyone Obamacare currently covers.
It’s an ambitious promise to make and one they may come to regret.
Replicating the coverage gains of Obamacare is difficult if not impossible with lower levels of government spending, and most experts anticipate the GOP Obamacare replacement will be less expensive and less robust than Obamacare.
With some 20 million people’s health insurance coverage in jeopardy, the temptation to promise no one will be harmed by repeal is strong. And some key high-ranking Republicans have already succumbed.
Kellyanne Conway: No One Currently Insured Will Lose Coverage, 1/4/2017
Just after Republicans introduced the first steps in the repeal process, Kellyanne Conway claimed the Trump administration does not want anyone who currently has insurance to lose it.
“We don’t want anyone who currently has insurance to not have insurance,” Conway said this week on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Conway also alluded to Trump’s previous praise for elements of Obamacare.
“We are aware that public likes coverage for pre-existing conditions. There are some pieces of merit in the existing plan.”
When pressed for details following Conway’s statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) referenced the repeal resolution, but would not answer whether all Americans’ insurance would be protected throughout the process.
Vox’s Ezra Klein called Conway’s comments “Trump’s ‘if you like your insurance, you can keep it’ moment,” and noted the interview seemed to challenge Trump’s campaign trail claims and his choice of Price, a hardliner against Obamacare, for HHS secretary.
Trump himself told several reporters in 2015 that he would work toward universal health care. In an interview with Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes, the real estate mogul said even the uninsured would be covered and the government would pay for it.
“I am going to take care of everybody,” Trump said, in the heat of his campaign. “I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”
Since the end of 2015 he’s taken wavering stances on a health care replacement, even praised pieces of Obamacare, but he has not reaffirmed the campaign rhetoric he expressed to Pelley.
Paul Ryan: “No One Is Left Out In The Cold”, 12/5/2016
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Thursday that Republicans plan to have a replacement on the floor this year, after the confirmation of incoming Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
He gave no indication that those who gained insurance through Obamacare would still be protected in his statement Thursday, but a month earlier, Ryan said that no Americans would be “worse off” under the Republican health care replacement plan in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“Clearly there will be a transition and a bridge so that no one is left out in the cold, so that no one is worse off. The purpose here is to bring relief to people who are suffering from Obamacare so that they can get something better.”
Ryan also indicated it would take a long time, perhaps years, to form a replacement in during the interview,.
The speaker’s staff responded with a clarification the next day, stating that Ryan only promised Americans to be “no worse off” during the transition out of Obamacare and distancing the GOP from the obligation to cover all Americans.
Correction from @SpeakerRyan‘s office: comments re “no one worse off” just apply to transition period, not eventual replacement plan.
— Sarah Kliff (@sarahkliff) December 6, 2016
The Journal Sentinel interview appears to have been an instance where Ryan shot beyond his safe rhetoric. In the same week, when the House Speaker appeared on 60 Minutes, host Scott Pelley directly asked if the Obamacare replacement plan would cover everyone in America.
“We will give everyone access to affordable healthcare coverage,” Ryan responded, allowing the GOP wiggle room to define what “access” and “affordable” mean.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV): “Get everybody who has insurance — and more — insured,” 1/5/17
The senator from West Virginia jumped ahead of her GOP colleagues’ claims, hoping that more people would gain coverage under a Republican replacement plan.
“The goal is to get everybody who has insurance — and more — insured. So this is still very much in a state of flux and development. But that’s my goal,” Capito told Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur.
Capito further tried to quash fears of losing health insurance on West Virginia MetroNews’ radio show Talkline. Nearly 200,000 West Virginians gained health insurance through Obamacare, which expanded Medicaid coverage.
“You will not be kicked off of your coverage,” Capito told Talkline’s Hoppy Kercheval. “There’s going to be a time when we’re going to figure out the best way to get better coverage for those people. Whether it’s called Medicaid or an expanded Medicaid, I think those details will be worked out later.”