Senate Republicans, who spent the last few years demanding a complete, root-and-branch repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law, are now publicly signaling that they may be open to keeping the law’s most popular provisions, reports TalkingPointsMemo
Public opinion data indicate that while a steady majority of Americans would like to see the law repealed, they also support some of its provisions in isolation, particularly the ban on insurance discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, the closing of the prescription drug donut hole, and the retention of young adults on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26.
With the Supreme Court expected to issue a ruling on the law in June, both Democrats and Republicans have begun preparing contingency plans. If the law is struck down in its entirety, Republican leaders worry that the elision of popular provisions will expose their members to political peril in an election year.
As a result, senior Senate Republicans have adopted a marked tonal shift, qualifying their opposition to Obamacare with a willingness to preserve the more popular elements of the law.
Asked about the provision allowing young adults to remain on their parent's insurance until they turn 26, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., vice chair of the Senate Republican Conference, affirmed his support. “I believe that’s one of the things that the Congress would surely reinstate,” Blunt said. “It’s a way to get a significant number of the uninsured into an insurance group without much cost.”
“There are other things like that as well,” Blunt added.
The Senate GOP’s softening stance on outright repeal follows the lead of House Republican leaders, who have recently signaled a similar willingness to retain the most popular elements of the law.
Absent in Republicans’ political calculations has been a consideration of the law’s economic viability without an individual mandate compelling Americans to buy health insurance. Insurance companies worry that a requirement to cover those with pre-existing conditions will break the bank unless it is accompanied by some mechanism forcing healthy individuals to buy insurance as well.
In an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court, the insurance lobby group America’s Health Insurance Plans warned that “Implementation of [the Affordable Care Act’s] market reforms in the absence of an individual mandate would confound the legislation’s central goal of increasing the availability of affordable health care coverage.”
In other words, according to private insurers, with the popular must come the unpopular. It’s a piece of policy advice that may well become lost in the political din of an election year.
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