No popular options for repeal or replace
'Repeal and delay' just as unpopular as GOP health care bill
WELL, THAT DIDN’T take long.
Less than 24 hours after conservative senators Jerry Moran and Mike Lee joined Rand Paul and Susan Collins in opposing the Senate’s “repeal and replace” health care bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “repeal and delay” plan B crashed almost before it got off the ground.
The public polling suggest this outcome should not be too surprising. The various replacements proposals from the House and the Senate were unpopular from the get go. Support for them dipped into the teens and twenties. One analysis concluded the bill was the least popular piece of major legislation in decades.
And the latest polling showed that repeal and delay was just as unpopular. The July Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found just a quarter of Americans preferred repealing the bill and working out a replacement later. That’s even lower than the 37 percent who supported a simultaneous repeal and replacement.
One reason repeal (with or without a replacement) is so unpopular is that support for Obamacare among voters has been rising steadily for the last few years, and now outweighs opposition in most polls. When compared to the proposed replacements, Obamacare looks even better. The latest ABC/Washington Post poll found Americans preferred Obamacare over the GOP replacement by a 2-to-1 margin.
Individual parts of Obamacare are even more popular. An earlier Kaiser poll found majorities of Republicans in favor of most of Obamacare major provisions. That ranges from 82 percent of Republicans who support letting young adults stay on their parents’ health insurance, down to 63 percent who favor protections for patients with preexisting conditions. Two-thirds favor Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, and 63 percent support the taxes on higher earners to fund Medicaid. Repealing these last two items was perhaps the most talked about part of the Senate replacement.
Voters appear understandably reluctant to jettison a law they like without an alternative, especially when the alternatives offered so far do away with the very policies that have made Obamacare popular. Congress has so far shown no ability to create a replacement voters view as adequate.
Had it passed, the repeal-and-delay proposal may have offered some political advantages for Republicans down the road. Even if Democrats were to win back the House in 2018, they would not be able to reverse a repeal with Republicans controlling the White House and, most likely, the Senate. Democrats would have been forced to choose between a return to pre-Obamacare health insurance, or working with the Republicans on a replacement. In the interim, though, Republicans would have owned a very unpopular repeal of an increasingly popular law.
There’s always a chance that Republican leaders could decide to take another run at going it alone. Absent that, the other option left for fixing the problems in Obamacare is the one the public has wanted all along: bipartisan dealmaking. The most popular strategy Kaiser tested in its latest poll was for Republicans to work with Democrats to fix the current law. Seven in ten Americans favor that approach over pursuing the GOP bill, including nearly half of Republicans.
Meanwhile, President Trump says Obamacare should be allowed to fail, and sees possible deals with Democrats coming later. “We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us,” he said this morning to reporters. Kaiser polling from April casts doubt on how blame would be assigned, finding that, by a 2-to-1 margin, Americans said they would blame Trump and the Republicans over Obama and Democrats if the existing law were to fail.
Steve Koczela is president and Richard Parr is research director of the MassINC Polling Group, a subsidiary of MassINC, the parent of CommonWealth.