The Republican-led effort to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) collapsed this week when two additional GOP senators, Utah’s Mike Lee and Jerry Moran of Kansas, said they would vote “no” in a crucial vote that had been expected as early as next week. Their announcement meant that at least four of the 52 GOP senators were ready to block a measure that Republicans had promised for the past seven years to undertake.
It was the second setback in three weeks for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who was unable to corral the necessary members of his caucus to support a complete overhaul of healthcare that resulted in sharp divides between conservatives and moderates. In June, McConnell abandoned an initial package after he lacked enough GOP support to pass. Instead, McConnell said he will return to a measure the GOP had supported in 2015 which would be a repeal of much of the ACA with a two-year delay designed to give lawmakers time to enact a suitable replacement. That bill was vetoed by then-President Barack Obama.
“Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful,” McConnell said late Monday night. President Donald Trump tweeted after the news that “Republicans should just REPEAL failing Obamacare now and work on a new healthcare plan that will start from a clean. Dems will join in!”
McConnell’s failed bill would have left an estimated 22 million persons uninsured by 2026, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Many Republicans found this number unacceptable. However, the vetoed 2015 bill would have reportedly been worse, according to the CBO, as a reported 32 million persons would have been left with no health insurance by 2026.
McConnell had to resort to an option he described last month in negotiating with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that would likely be a narrower package aimed more at keeping insurers in difficult marketplaces who have threatened to abandon selling policies or impose rapidly growing premiums.
“The core of this bill is unworkable,” Schumer said in a statement. He has encouraged Republicans to “start from scratch” and work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets, and improves the healthcare system in general.
The new GOP plan is similar to legislation the House passed in May in calling for a repeal on ACA tax penalties on people who don’t buy coverage, and cutting the Medicaid program for poor, elderly and nursing home residents. The house plan rolled back many of the statute’s requirements for the policies insurers can sell and eliminated many tax increases that raised money for the ACA expansion to 20 million more people.