We know it sounds too good to be true, but here’s a Twitter exchange that told the story of the GOP’s newly unveiled American Health Care Act in a nut shell earlier this week, care of Charles C.W. Cooke: “I’ve yet to read a single positive analysis of the House’s Obamacare bill.” @MAcatholicmom, helpfully if not very grammatically: “try going 2 a conservative source? Open up your reading habits 2 include those w/ whom u would naturally dismiss.” Cooke, no doubt feeling unwelcome battery acid begin to corrode his liver: “I’m the editor of National Review Online.”
On the plus side, at least now we know what became of the last Thanksgiving turkey Obama pardoned at the White House. It wandered off to Capitol Hill, asked directions from Pocahontas’s statue and introduced itself around to the Republican leadership: “Gobble, gobble?” “Gobble, GOBBLE! We accept you, one of us.” Then it had its feathers repainted red, white and blue and its inquisitive little eyes and beak camouflaged by one of the rotting fish heads Speaker Paul Ryan keeps in his office for such emergencies before emerging some months later as the AHCA.
Now that it’s neither fish nor fowl, however, its chances of dodging the oven don’t look good. NRO’s editor is right: nobody is happy. Not the Koch brothers and the GOP’s Obamacare-hating, free-market right wing, because the damn thing still looks and sounds so much like a turkey. And not a sizable minority of rank-and-file Republican House members, because the stench of rotting fish is something they’ve gotten uncomfortably familiar with at a few too many town halls since election day. Why didn’t anybody tell them their constituents have gotten a lot fonder of Obamacare now that Obama himself isn’t around to keep red-staters reflexively anti? Kee-rist!
This thing went into the weeds faster than a random golf ball at Mar-a-Lago.
No wonder the AHCA looks like the best of both worlds in roughly the same sense that the brief but intimate relationship between the Titanic and the iceberg was a bromance. First off, it sort of keeps the stuff voters sort of like, including the pre-existing conditions rule and expanded dependent coverage. But since Republicans don’t muck around with socialism, it also dismantles the dismal apparatus devised to keep the Affordable Care Act, well, affordable, and its benefits accessible to almost everybody. According to one independent analysis from Standard & Poor, between 6 and 10 million of the people covered under Obamacare (either via exchanges or through Medicare) could lose their health insurance under the AHCA.
Poor and elderly people will be royally screwed, but rich ones will get new tax breaks. Meanwhile, nobody can predict how the insurance companies’ profits will be affected, because premiums will rise but the market will shrink. Nor does anybody know what all this will wind up costing the taxpayers, and the reason we don’t know is that Ryan (although not Mitch McConnell) wants to ram the bill through without waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to price out its consequences. But pro-AHCA Republicans are already deprecating the CBO, just in case.
Unfortunately, there aren’t that many pro-AHCA Republicans, and they can’t be thrilled that their overnight poster boy was the unspeakable Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). Chaffetz’s already notorious explanation that poorer Americans would just have to choose between getting health insurance and buying an iPhone conjured up images of ragged Grapes of Wrath scarecrows logging off Facebook one last time as they muttered with their dying breaths, “Why didn’t I listen? Fuck you, Steve Jobs.”
Let’s not forget that the GOP has had seven years—seven years!—to cook up a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. They’ve known since last November that actually doing so is now feasible, thanks to a new president who’s made it clear he’ll sign pretty much any contraption they pass. But Ryan, whose reputation as the party’s best egghead says less about him than it does about today’s Republican party, has managed to botch the job anyway. This thing went into the weeds faster than a random golf ball at Mar-a-Lago, not least because Ryan plainly assumed that any old bill would do.
His problem is that the only thing that’s kept Republicans unified all this time is hatred of Obama. Without the right wing’s favorite Marxist, Kenya-born closet Muslim in the White House to keep true patriots agitated, the GOP is at a loss for coherence, not to mention way out of practice at anything resembling actual governing. The backlash from Ryan’s own caucus (not to mention his patrons) may not just scuttle this particular bill, no matter how much it gets tinkered with to appease naysayers. It could end up demonstrating that any reform of Obamacare that’s more than cosmetic is impossible. But then, as Donald Trump announced with some stupefaction last month, it turns out that health care is incredibly complicated. Who knew?