By Horus Alas
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, sometimes known as the “ACA” or “Obamacare,” was signed into law March 23, 2010. The bill would become President Obama’s landmark domestic policy achievement, spearheaded by himself and then-Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.
One year into the Obama presidency, a Democratic-majority House of Representatives, Senate and White House passed the most contentious piece of federal legislation of the 21st century.
Since then, Republicans have positioned themselves as the opposition party to former President Obama and his progressive platform. In the wake of their 2010 conquest of the House of Representatives, Sarah Palin wrote via Twitter, “Very clear message to Pres Obama: we’ll send our representatives to DC to stop your fundamental transformation of America. Enough is enough.”
For the next seven years of both Obama terms, Republicans have all but made it their raison d’être to repeal Obamacare. On the campaign trail, President Trump repeatedly touted a promise to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.
Since the ACA was passed, Republicans steadily took greater control over both chambers of Congress. Bolstered by grassroots conservatives who were in turn bolstered by staunch conservative media, Republicans began to consistently outperform Democrats at the ballot box.
The culmination thereof can be seen in the 2016 elections, when Republicans retained control over both houses of Congress and took the White House.
And as of January 2017, when President Trump took office, the stage was set at last for the seven-years-awaited repeal and replacement of Obamacare.
It should have been an easy task. One imagines a committee of Republican lawmakers led by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan weighing pros and cons of the current health care law, evaluating its strength and weaknesses and deriving new legislation that improved upon the ACA without sacrificing health coverage for constituents.
But the current coterie of Republicans on Capitol Hill instead put forth something that was alternatively called “Ryancare” or “Trumpcare,” and it was as terrible as the idea of either of these men operating a clinic.
Among the key distinctions between the ACA and the Republican-drafted American Health Care Act are a 30 percent surcharge to be paid to insurance companies for a year for those who have failed to maintain continuous coverage, a reduction in the number of people eligible to enroll in Medicaid, and overall increased premiums for the sick, elderly and those with lower incomes.
The Congressional Budget Office notably estimated that by 2026, the number of uninsured Americans would rise to 52 million under the AHCA, compared to 28 million under Obamacare.
Unless you’re Ayn Rand or Paul Ryan, this bill was hard to love. Sen. Bernie Sanders denounced the bill, saying, “[This] legislation is disgusting. It is immoral. … if this legislation is passed, millions of people are thrown off of health insurance, not be able to get a doctor when they must. Thousands of Americans will die.”
Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) likewise came out against the bill, explaining, “I got an older population, I got a poorer population, and I got an opiate issue we need to clean up. … How can you look at yourself and say, ‘Okay, I’ll help the person who needs help the least, the wealthiest people, with more tax cuts, because I’m going to be taking away from the elderly population?’”
At the same time, the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus was also opposed to the AHCA, citing its failure to roll back “essential health benefits” as granted under the ACA. More moderate Republicans faced pressure from their state governments and constituents who would see their benefits gutted under the proposed bill.
Consumed by party infighting and uniform Democratic opposition, the 17-day bill dubbed the American Health Care Act was shelved and buried on Friday. Anticipating a defeat on the House floor, Ryan pulled the bill from a final vote.
The seven-year crusade to repeal and replace Obamacare ended in a blaze of non-glory for Republicans. “Obamacare is the law of the land,” Ryan declared in a press conference on Friday when he announced the bill would not see a vote.
The failure of the vehement Republican effort to scrap Obama’s signature domestic achievement came about not as a result of overwhelming odds or minorities in Congress.
It came about more so as the result of a terrible piece of legislation and a party that only knew how to unite itself when they were opposing the Obama agenda. Vendetta has been the main driving force of the party for seven years, and it’s suddenly evaporated into a haze of gross incompetency and all those poorly thought-out tweets from @realDonaldTrump.
The current Republican party has some soul-searching to do, but what else is new? They now exercise control over both houses of Congress and the White House, but passing a law somehow still feels out of reach for them.
Guys, this is fine. Our one-party, Republican-gerrymandered government apparatus is perfectly functional.
Just ask Paul Ryan.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Gage Skidmore’s Flickr account.
Horus Alas is a senior philosophy major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.