Do Republicans Really Want to Repeal Obamacare? Maybe Not

By John C. Goodman 

Originally posted at Forbes, August 2016. 

Here is something that may surprise you. Did you know that in the 6 ½ years since the passage of Obamacare, Republicans have not held a single hearing on the problems the law has created for ordinary people. No hearing in the House of Representatives. None in the Senate. None anywhere else. Zip. Zero. Nada.

There certainly has been no shortage of problems. It seems like every other week the (liberal) New York Times brings us a new investigative report – complete with gory details and eyewitness reports of victim after victim of President Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment. But if you look over the subject matter for the committee hearings in Congress for the past several years, you would never know an Obamacare problem even exists.

Why is that? There have been no shortage of votes to repeal Obamacare. At last count the House has voted to repeal some or all of the hated legislation 60 times!

But if you are going to vote to repeal something, shouldn’t you at least know why you want to repeal it? And to get a handle on that, why not bring in witnesses, consider evidence and mull over the findings?

Here, I think is the answer. Consider the most widely reported problems with ObamaCare: soaring premiums, narrow networks that leave out the best doctors and the best facilities, lack of access to specialists, high out-of-pocket costs for lifesaving specialty drugs, etc.

The people having these problems got their insurance in the (Obamacare) exchanges. The vast majority of them are newly insured. Whatever problems they are having would be even worse if they had no insurance at all. And that is what would happen if the Republicans repealed Obamacare and did not replace it with something else.

Having a hearing wouldn’t just put Democrats on the spot. It would put Republicans in the potentially embarrassing bind of having to explain how they would solve these very same problems.

Sorry to say, most Republican members of Congress have no solutions. Once you repeal all of Obamacare you also repeal all its sources of revenue. With no revenue, you can’t replace Obamacare with some other method of insuring the uninsured.

A House Republican task force on health care, established by Paul Ryan, has an answer to that problem: a Republican version of the Obamacare Cadillac plan tax. And although no numbers were produced, it is obvious that the tax would have to be quite steep to raise any serious revenue.

Ah, but there is a problem with that. Virtually every Republican in the House of Representatives has voted to abolish Obamacare’s version of the Cadillac tax. They would all look hypocritical if they turned around and endorsed a Cedilla tax that is just as bad or worse.

So let’s return to the titular question.

When House Republicans vote to repeal Obamacare, they are taking a free vote. They know their vote is meaningless because they know nothing will happen as a result of it. But suppose a future Senate and a future president signaled a willingness to go along with whatever the House sends their way. What then?

Would House Republicans really vote to take health insurance away from 20 million people?

Luckily for our elected representatives, they haven’t had to answer that question.

This articles was originally posted at Forbes on August 4, 2016.