Note From a Conservative: Republicans Can’t Repeal Obamacare on Their Own


Conservative Ramesh Ponnuru considers what would happen if Republicans “repealed” Obamacare but left in place the preexisting conditions ban:

This course could cause the insurance exchanges, already in trouble, to collapse entirely. That’s because the Republican bill would scrap the individual mandate while keeping Obamacare’s requirement that insurers treat sick and healthy people alike.

….The Republicans to whom [Philip] Klein talked are blasé about this possibility. If millions of people lose their coverage, these Republicans plan to say that the exchanges were already collapsing before they touched the law. It seems unlikely that the press will go along with this narrative, in part because many health-care experts, liberal and conservative, will tell reporters that it’s false.

What Republicans have not faced is that they don’t have the votes to repeal Obamacare. Calling a bill that doesn’t repeal Obamacare’s central provisions “repeal” is no escape from that dilemma.

It’s a sign of the times that Ponnuru has to warn Republicans that the press won’t go along with their preferred narrative because it’s a lie. It’s also a bit starry-eyed, unfortunately. The fact that it’s a lie certainly wouldn’t stop the right-wing press; wouldn’t stop Trump; and would quite likely affect the rest of the press at least to the extent of calling it “controversial” and declining to take sides.

That said, Ponnuru is right. If you repeal some of Obamacare but leave the rest in place, it would cause the entire program to collapse. It might even go further, and cause the entire individual insurance market to collapse. Republicans better think hard about whether they want to be on the business end of something like that happening.