AP NEWS

GOP must show voters Obamacare alternative

April 1, 2019

President Donald Trump has renewed an old debate by renewing his efforts to repeal Obamacare completely. Yet the same arguments that accompanied this dispute in 2017 and 2018 still apply: 1) What is the Republican alternative health care plan if Obamacare is erased? 2) Unless or until that other plan appears, most voters would prefer keeping Obamacare despite its imperfections.

The latest move was triggered when Trump’s Department of Justice agreed with a court ruling that struck the mandatory aspect of Obamacare, the so-called individual mandate. Without that requirement, which Congress repealed in 2018, the administration believes the entire law is null and void.

That was a key provision of the law, and its most controversial. When the Supreme Court narrowly upheld the legality of Obamacare, it did so by declaring that in effect, the individual mandate was a tax, and Congress does have the power to levy taxes.

Political arguments aside, Obamacare does provide health insurance for people who wouldn’t have it otherwise. The Congressional Budget Office has reported that if it were simply repealed with no replacement, up to 32 million people could lose health insurance.

That’s not right, or even economical. That group of up to 32 million people would still have some level of health problems and need some degree of care. They just wouldn’t have insurance policies to help pay for it.

They could go to emergency rooms for more expensive treatment that is free to them but costly to other taxpayers. They could miss work or school, undermining the larger economy and their own lives. No one can endorse those approaches, or try to justify large numbers of uninsured Americans. Even conservative Republicans in Congress blinked when they had the chance to repeal Obamacare — with no alternative.

Saying no to something like Obamacare is easy. Replacing it with something better is not easy. In fact, Republicans have been against this law from the day that President Barrack Obama unveiled it — and still never produced an option to it. Trump said last week that Republicans are “working on a plan now” and hope to “come up with something that’s really spectacular.” But then he added, “there’s no very great rush” to complete it.

That’s not acceptable. Obamacare, for all its flaws, is better than nothing. If Republicans can show another way to get health care to people who need it, they should bring it forward. If they want to keep the good parts of Obamacare, like coverage of pre-existing conditions, and junk the bad parts, they can certainly do that. But until they can do something, they shouldn’t leave vulnerable people with nothing.