Republicans managed to score a huge mark in the Win column at the end of the year, putting a tax reform bill on President Trump’s desk that could be just the spark needed to send the economy to the moon in 2018.
But as enormous a victory as it is, it may not be enough to overshadow the GOP’s inability to make good on one of their biggest promises of the last seven years – to repeal and replace Obamacare. That promise lies broken on the table still, even as the party turns its eye to immigration, entitlement reform, and other possible agenda items leading up to the midterm elections.
At the same time, there was a bit of good news on this front in the tax bill itself. As part of the legislation, Republicans waived the individual mandate, making it possible once again for taxpayers to forgo health insurance without paying a big penalty on April 15. Democrats have said this will lead to millions of people “losing” insurance, which is a ludicrous way to put it. If you choose not to buy health insurance that the government was forcing you to buy the year before…are you really losing it? We would submit that you are not.
In a tweet sent Tuesday, President Trump said that the repeal of the individual mandate would force Republicans and Democrats to sit down once again and figure out a new way forward on healthcare.
“Based on the fact that the very unfair and unpopular Individual Mandate has been terminated as part of our Tax Cut Bill, which essentially Repeals (over time) ObamaCare, the Democrats & Republicans will eventually come together and develop a great new HealthCare plan!” Trump wrote.
Unfortunately, senior leadership in the Republican Party does not seem eager to trudge back into the repeal/replace waters again. And while we’re naturally suspicious whenever Mitch McConnell and friends begin backing away from their campaign vows, we have to admit, in this case, that they have a point. Republicans now have one less seat in the Senate than they did when they took their first unsuccessful whack at Obamacare earlier in the year. If they have a super secret plan to shove this through now, we have to wonder why we didn’t see it before. The repeal of the individual mandate does indeed put extra pressure on the plan, but we’re not sure if Democrats will be feeling it. If Obamacare continues to spiral, they’ll now be able to put the blame on the GOP…even if that’s not entirely fair. Guaranteed, this is how the media will spin it as well.
So we may be looking at a period of “go along to get along” while we wait to see if the Affordable Care Act can survive without the mandate in place. And we’ll see if Republicans care to pass the Graham/Cassidy bill that would repeal more of the Obamacare law in exchange for providing block grants to the states and opening up the government market to more competition.
Much will depend, we suspect, on how much pressure comes from the insurance industry.