The president’s meeting with congressional Democrats only underscored how powerless his party is to stop a repeal of Obamacare. The get-together yielded little more than slogans and epithets. Obama instructed his allies to label any GOP replacement as “Trumpcare.” Democratic leaders emerged from the gathering with a catchphrase, accusing Republicans of working to “make America sick again.”
To his credit, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., sat out the meeting with Obama and called for an end to partisan bickering over Obamacare. “In good conscience, I can’t do it,” he explained. “I’m willing to look at replacing, repairing, doing anything that we can to make it better, but put something on the table.”
Pence’s meeting with Republicans was far more substantive. And it offers hope that the GOP may resist the temptation to notch a short-term political victory by repealing Obamacare without having a viable plan ready to put in its place.
Pence insisted on an “orderly transition” away from Obamacare but was careful to emphasize that there are a “broad range of ideas on how to do this.” Meanwhile, Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., suggested that Republicans could have a replacement plan finalized within six months.
These are both promising signs, as delaying Obamacare’s replacement would be disastrous. A years-long replacement process would only accelerate the death spiral of Obamacare’s exchanges.
Insurers would have little reason to continue offering coverage through the marketplaces if those marketplaces were to eventually disappear. Absent the individual mandate, healthy consumers would have even less reason to buy coverage. So the few insurers that remained on the exchanges would have to hike premiums ever higher to cover the cost of insuring the sick folks who remained in the insurance pool.
Democrats would be more than happy to saddle Republicans with Obamacare’s wreckage. Fortunately, President-elect Trump is well aware of this danger. As he tweeted Wednesday morning, “Republicans must be careful in that Dems own the failed ObamaCare disaster.”
The best way to accomplish that goal is by simultaneously repealing and replacing Obamacare in one fell swoop, and as soon as possible.