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Editorial: It’s time to cut a deal on health care

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (center), accompanied by (from left) Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. President Donald Trump blasted congressional Democrats and "a few Republicans" over the collapse of the GOP effort to rewrite the Obama health care law. McConnell proposed a vote on a backup plan simply repealing the statute. AP

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (center), accompanied by (from left) Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. President Donald Trump blasted congressional Democrats and "a few Republicans" over the collapse of the GOP effort to rewrite the Obama health care law. McConnell proposed a vote on a backup plan simply repealing the statute. AP


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It’s time for the president to broker a deal. Though Republicans control Congress and the White House, they’ve failed to pass a single substantive piece of legislation during their first six months in power. Now the effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act led by Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has died for want of Republican support.

McConnell’s promised next attempt, a plan to repeal Obamacare now and replace it two years from now, though backed by President Trump, is doomed. No Democratic senator will vote for it, nor will at least a handful of Republicans.

As New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen puts it, the proposal is “akin to throwing the American public off a cliff and promising a parachute later.” At this point, would anyone approaching that cliff believe that a smiling Trump or McConnell would hand them a parachute?

Trump reacted to the news with his usual mix of bullying, bluster and BS. The repeal of Obamacare would throw tens of millions of people off insurance, cripple efforts to deal with the opioid epidemic, increase premiums for everyone and make the nation less, not more, competitive in the world marketplace. Millions would suffer but Trump said of Republicans: “We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it.”

Oh yes you are, Mr. President, but there’s a way out.

Call a meeting. Invite West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, who, in rejecting the repeal effort, said, “I did not come to Washington to hurt people.” West Virginia, like New Hampshire, depends heavily on Medicaid money to combat the drug epidemic, money that would dry up with repeal. Invite Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, and House and Senate Republicans who fear that their state’s residents, and state budgets, would be devastated by a repeal. Their voters are part of your so-called base, and they’ve figured out that your party’s repeal plan will hurt them big time.

Ignore the ideologues who want as little government involvement in health care as possible. The rest of the developed world proved them wrong long ago. See how far the attendees are willing to go to reform Obamacare, which has already slowed the rate of health care cost increases. Then invite some Democrats, starting with the moderates. Don’t threaten or try to knock heads. You can’t fire them, as you’ve probably learned by now. Employ the art of the deal.

America’s cockamamie health care non-system is never going to be fixed in one fell swoop. It will be a work in continual progress, but progress does not describe what’s occurred so far during your administration. Eventually, we believe, the result will be some form of universal health care, perhaps Medicare for all, with premiums based on age and income, plus private insurance for those who can afford it. But who knows?

Moving the Republican members of Congress in the same direction on health care is worse than herding cats; it’s herding wolverines and you could get eaten. Nothing will happen without bipartisanship, so cut a deal.