The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Obamacare Obituary

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


The Affordable Care Act of Washington, D.C., lovingly known as Obamacare, was born on March 23, 2010 and after a long illness, left this Earth on November 8, 2016.  Beloved policy of President Barack Obama, it is also survived by Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and former-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).  After a long illness and being on life support for several months, the American people ordered all life-saving measures to be stopped to allow it to die peacefully.  Ever increasing premiums, sky-high deductibles, and insurers dropping out of the marketplace exchanges were more than it could handle.  Funeral preparations will be handled by the Republicans in the House of Representatives and final burial will be arranged by Senate Republicans. 

All kidding aside, Tuesday’s election has provided the first opportunity for the Congress to rid the nation of Obamacare.  President-elect Donald Trump has called for the healthcare reform law to be repealed and replaced.  House Republicans have a replacement model ready to go, which can be found on Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisc.) website.  Many of the proposals in the policy model can be converted into legislation relatively quickly; such as utilizing consumer-directed healthcare options to drive down health costs - for example encouraging the use of Health Savings Accounts; making healthcare coverage portable by providing advanceable, refundable tax credits for individuals and families to purchase the health insurance they want; and expanding opportunities for people to pool together, thus allowing them to purchase insurance through trade associations and other groups, such as religious orders or fraternal organizations.

It is important to remember that while any healthcare replacement plan can be passed in the House of Representatives, problems arise in the Senate where a filibuster-proof 60-vote threshold must be obtained to consider and move any legislation.  Currently there are only 51 Senate Republicans and a possibility of gaining additional Republican seats.  One will likely be obtained through the Louisiana Senate run-off and another if the rumor that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is willing to change parties should come to fruition.  (He has denied he plans to do that.)

Even if the Republicans could gain two additional members, it is not enough to break a filibuster.  Thus, the way Republicans may likely choose to pass a healthcare reform bill and get it signed into law is through “reconciliation,” a budgetary process that would require only 51 votes.  However, reconciliation can only be used to consider three issues:  spending, taxes, and the debt limit.  Therefore, only certain parts of Obamacare can be repealed, or even replaced, using this process.  Ironically, reconciliation is the process the Democrats used to pass Obamacare when Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) won his seat in 2010. 

In fact, the Republicans in Congress passed a repeal measure in January, 2016 under the reconciliation procedure.  While President Obama vetoed the measure, the effort proved a repeal bill could be passed using this budgetary procedure, thus setting precedent.  This important vote was discussed in our January Waste Watcher.

In addition, simply removing the many illegal regulations and presidential directives that changed the law, in a desperate attempt to keep it afloat, would also strike a fatal blow.  The Galen Institute describes 43 changes to Obamacare by administrative action alone.  A Trump administration, along with a Republican congress, could also stop any unlawful activities that have been utilized by the Obama administration to bail out the insurers with tax-payer money.  CAGW discussed some of these illegal undertakings in a February 19, SwineLine blog.

While both Speaker Ryan and Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) have said getting rid of Obamacare is a top priority, voters have been disappointed before by congressional inaction.  It’s a major reason Donald Trump will be the next president.  What is clear, the American people expect the 115th Congress and President-Elect Donald Trump to get it done.

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