McConnell's 'Repeal Now, Replace Later' Plan Appears to Be Nonstarter

by | July 18, 2017

By Noam N. Levey And Lisa Mascaro

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's latest bid to salvage the GOP campaign to roll back the Affordable Care Act collapsed Tuesday as centrist Republicans balked at legislation to repeal the health care law now and develop an alternative later.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski became the third GOP lawmaker to reject McConnell's new strategy, making it impossible for Senate Republicans to bring up the plan.

Earlier Tuesday, Maine Sen. Susan Collins and West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, said they would not back the "repeal and delay" approach.

"I cannot vote to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan that addresses my concerns and the needs of West Virginians," Capito said in a statement.

McConnell on Monday night floated the plan to vote for legislation repealing most of Obamacare now with a plan to develop an alternative over the next two years.

That strategy, which GOP leaders once championed, was revived after it became clear that McConnell, of Kentucky, could not get enough Republican votes for his bill repealing and replacing large parts of the 2010 law at the same time.

But the "repeal-and-delay" plan would cause even more widespread disruption to the nation's healthcare system and throw millions more Americans off the insurance rolls.

An independent analysis of such an approach by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office earlier this year concluded that it would lead to 32 million more uninsured Americans over the next decade.

That is some 10 million more than predicted under the Senate repeal-and-replace plan that was scuttled Monday night, which was projected to increase the number of uninsured by 22 million by 2026.

At the same time, repealing major planks of Obamacare without a replacement would cause insurance premiums to jump by 20 percent to 25 percent next year for Americans who rely on insurance marketplaces, budget analysts concluded.

And premiums would double by 2026, according to the report.

Similar warnings came from across the nation's health care system earlier this year when Republicans contemplated a straight repeal bill that followed the template of a "repeal-and-delay" plan that Congress sent President Barack Obama in 2015 and which he subsequently vetoed.

"Delaying such a replacement could create unacceptable instability in the insurance market jeopardizing the healthcare of more than 20 million Americans _ many of whom are cancer patients and cancer survivors with a preexisting condition," Chris Hansen, head of the American Cancer Society's advocacy arm, said in January.

Even many leading Republican senators have voiced major concerns about repealing the current law without some replacement.

"Congress should replace and repeal at the same time, which requires figuring out how to replace it before fully repealing it," Senate health committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in December.

(c)2017 Los Angeles Times