Nationwide activism prevented a round of Senate bills that would have repealed Obamacare. But that tense, dramatic evening is not the end of the seven-year effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. There is much to be celebrated in the rebirth of true grassroots organizing that sank the repeal and replace effort… for now. We won the battle — tens of millions can rest easier — but the war is not over.
Even as Washington’s attention has shifted to other oddities (Bannon and Scaramucci) and existential and horrifying crises (North Korea and Charlottesville), the health care fight will return with Congress this fall.
Enough Republicans are deeply, blindly committed to repealing Obamacare, even if it’s unpopular with the majority of Americans, terrible for tens of millions of Americans, and even if they’ve repeatedly tried and failed to repeal it. For some it’s ideological (they just can’t stand the government having a role in health care) and for some it’s political (their funders and a vocal segment of their base insist on it). And Trump simply wont let it go.
Just a few days ago, President Trump began trolling the Senate majority leader to get repeal and replace back on the table.
But even without a full repeal, essential programs like Medicaid and the critical insurance subsidies have targets on their backs. The President himself has openly called for sabotaging the health insurance exchanges by ending the payments that benefit the poorest Americans and Members of Congress.
The political and ideological opposition to the ACA is so intense that even with clear and overwhelming public support for it and powerful grassroots activism the fight was only one by two votes. And as President Trump likes to remind his party they have been promising to repeal the ACA for 7 years, voting almost 70 times to repeal it when Obama was President and there wasn’t even a chance of their success.
Even if McConnell and Ryan decide that they don’t want to face another round of failure in the fall— it’s got to be getting a little tired — they will likely lay-low, let our opposition die down, and work to gain a few more seats in the November 2018 election.
And even if McConnell and Ryan decide that they want to respect the will of the people and do what’s right by the people, their billionaire funders aren’t g0ing to let them. The Koch brothers and big-dollar donors have sent them a clear message:
“Get Obamacare repealed and replaced, get tax reform passed… You control the Senate. You control the House. You have the presidency. There’s no reason you can’t get this done. Get it done and we’ll open [the piggy bank] back up.”
Congress isn’t alone in the threat to our health care. Special interest groups in Oregon recently launched an effort to overturn a bill that would preserve Medicaid coverage for 350,000 Oregonians. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has repeatedly tried to weaken the state’s highly successful program that slashed the state’s uninsured rate and expanded access to treatment for opioid use disorders. This week, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott signed a law banning insurance companies in his state from covering abortion care.
American voters saved their coverage by making sure their representatives understood the stakes and heard their message. The media nicknamed the repeal and replace bill a “zombie bill” — it was dead but kept coming back to life. I think zombie better describes the efforts to repeal Obamacare. Until we take Obamacare off the chopping block we have to assume they will come for it again and again, we have to be ready.