Congress will be back in session within a matter of weeks and the GOP's number one priority is still repealing Obamacare. Only...they're still not sure how to actually go about doing it without collapsing the entire health care system.
The first major act of the unified Republican government in 2017 will be a vote in Congress to begin tearing down Obamacare.
But the euphoria of finally acting on a long-sought goal will quickly give way to the reality that Republicans -- and President-elect Donald Trump -- have no agreement thus far on how to replace coverage for about 20 million people who gained insurance under the health-care law.
“They haven’t come to a consensus in the House and the Senate about the possible replacement plans,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a conservative economist and former adviser to Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “They don’t know Point B.”
Republicans are debating how long to delay implementing the repeal. Aides involved in the deliberations said some parts of the law may be ended quickly, such as its regulations affecting insurer health plans and businesses. Other pieces may be maintained for up to three or four years, such as insurance subsidies and the Medicaid expansion. Some parts of the law may never be repealed, such as the provision letting people under age 26 remain on a parent’s plan.
House conservatives want a two-year fuse for the repeal. Republican leaders prefer at least three years, and there has been discussion of putting it off until after the 2020 elections, staffers said.
Such courage! Obamacare is so awful that it must be repealed immediately but actually it won't go away for 2 years, 4 years or even longer. And then we're keeping the good parts that people like. Oh yeah, and then there's the little problem of tens of millions of Americans losing their health care coverage.
Translating slogans and white-papers into legislation will create problems. Undoing Obamacare would increase the number of non-seniors who are uninsured by 24 million over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Republican aides privately acknowledge that would give Democrats a potent political weapon to fight their efforts, but say their focus will be on lowering costs and expanding choice.
And then there's the issue that several GOP governors don't want to end their careers having to take health care away from their constituents.
Whether or not Democrats will be able to convince anyone that blowing up Obamacare won't be Obama's fault, well, who knows?