Paul Ryan triumphantly moved his pawn to the last square. “Hey Nancy, queen me!” His gallery went wild. He jumped out of his chair and high-fived his backers. “You da man”, his new friend, Donald Trump, shouted from the front row. It wasn’t until he returned to his seat that he noticed that his opponent had remained silent, oddly silent, throughout the celebration. But that didn’t matter to Paul. He leaned back in his chair and didn’t even bother to hide his smirk. Nancy Pelosi reached for her rook, pushed it three blocks to the right, and said “Checkmate”.
While the TV has been Trump 24/7, there are other news sources helping to bring important info to the American public. Excellent reporting from Bloomberg Politics on May 18th revealed that “the American Health Care Act, H.R. 1628, hasn’t been transmitted from the House to the Senate, according to Senate Bill Clerk Sara Schwartzman”. Confirmed by CNN, House Bill 1628, the American Health Care Act is sitting in Paul Ryan’s desk while he sweats out a Congressional Budget Office report.
The danger of creating a piece of legislation that is designed more to punch your opponents in the nose than to solve a particular policy problem is that the House can pass just about anything by a simple majority but that the Senate’s rules are a lot more complicated. The Senate’s filibuster and reconciliation rules shaped the final structure of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). And Trumpcare will only become law if the legislation meets these same arcane regulations. And we won’t know until Wednesday, when the Congressional Budget Office releases their scoring, if the AHCA complies.
The minimal requirements are that the American Health Care Act must reduce the deficit by at least Two Billion Dollars. That removes the possibility of a Democratic lead filibuster and allows the Senate to pass legislation by simple majority. The bill must also provide the proper optics. If the CBO report comes back with too many people losing their coverage, that too could bury the legislation. The original House version had only 24 million Americans losing their coverage, not nearly enough to slow Speaker Ryan. The uninsured issue could cause real concern in the Senate, but doesn’t force the House to act. But if the deficit reduction goals weren’t met, the House will be forced to retool the AHCA and then VOTE AGAIN. President Trump and Speaker Ryan twisted an awful lot of arms to get those 217 votes a few weeks ago. Could he get them again?
The biggest problem with the AHCA isn’t that it fails to answer how all Americans can access and pay for healthcare. The biggest issue is that its starting point is the repeal and replacement of Obamacare. The goal is to eliminate President Obama’s legacy, not affordable healthcare and certainly not patient protection. There can’t be any real progress or any true bipartisan effort until our elected representatives choose to fix the existing law. There are responsible Democrats and Republicans who will privately acknowledge that there are ways to improve the PPACA that both sides could accept once the focus changes from the name to the content.
Mark Bertolini, the chairman and CEO of Aetna, was recently quoted as saying “Single-payer, I think we should have that debate as a nation”. In the attached article Bertolini describes the public/private partnership that already exists in both Medicare and Medicaid. He also notes that the insurers already run many of these programs and process the paperwork. Some are viewing this as expanding Medicare Part C, the Advantage Plans, to all Americans both under and over 65. I look at this as a direct extension of my blog post of April 2010 where I claimed that the insurers would eventually push for a single-payer type of system.
Democrats like Pelosi wanted a single-payer program in 2010. Republicans have long promoted market-based solutions such as the Advantage Plans. It is difficult to predict how soon the adults in Congress gain control of the news cycle, much less the legislative agenda. But no one wants to campaign on the value of taking access to healthcare away from Americans. Paul Ryan had a minor victory two weeks ago. Nancy Pelosi appears to still be winning the chess match.