To Repeal Obamacare, You Need to Replace It
Posted on June 25, 2015
(This originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal's Think Tank)
The Roberts Court has ruled twice that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. So that debate is pretty much over. The law isn’t going to be thrown out by the judicial branch. The legislative branch better get to work if it wants to see it removed.
You can’t beat something with nothing. If Republicans want to repeal Obamacare, they need to replace it with something that works better, that is easier to understand, and that will lead to better prices and higher quality for consumers.
In its King v. Burwell ruling, the majority wrote that “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.” Chief Justice John Roberts was concerned that an adverse decision would put insurance markets “into a death spiral.”
Had Republicans passed a replacement plan that would have avoided insurance markets lapsing into a “death spiral,” they might have strengthened their hand with the court.
But lawmakers preferred to wait to see what the supremes would do.
Now, congressional Republicans don’t have to do anything–which is probably the best-case scenario for many on the Hill who would prefer to deal with other issues.
Coming up with a comprehensive replacement to Obamacare would not be easy. It will require hundreds of hours of staff work, tough compromises within industry, and hard decisions about who has to pay more and who should pay less. The legislative process to accomplish all this would have exhausted the clock and taken up precious floor time.
The truth is, Republicans didn’t want to go through that process only to have the president veto their efforts. Privately, they didn’t want their constituents to face a loss of subsidies had the King case gone their way.
It’s not certain whether repealing Obamacare will be a top issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, but this much is clear: If Republicans want to win on this issue, they can’t just talk about repeal. They have to better define what they would replace Obamacare with.