Monday, September 22nd, 2014

GOP promise to repeal Obamacare blocked by Democrats

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has been a prominent voice in the call to repeal Obamacare.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has been a prominent voice in the call to repeal Obamacare.

When Republicans campaigned to take over Congress in 2010, their Pledge to America promised to "repeal and replace" the Democratic health care law with a series of smaller reforms.

They won control of the House, which gave them a perch to stage repeated votes on repealing the law, but the Democrats still have a majority in the Senate, which has been a roadblock against repeal.

The House has now voted more than 30 times to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act, most recently on July 11, 2012, shortly after the Supreme Court declared the law constitutional. But no matter how many times repeal bills pass the House, they have gone nowhere in the Senate. So we’re rating the repeal a Promise Broken on our GOP Pledge-O-Meter, which tracks the 2010 Republican promises.

Still, there has been one success story for the GOP because one piece of the health reform law has been taken off the books. It was known as the small business mandate, a requirement that all companies report any purchase exceeding $600 to the Internal Revenue Service. After many business owners complained that would impose a massive new paperwork burden, Congress agreed to scrap it and the president signed the bill into law in the spring of 2011. So this one earns a Promise Kept for the GOP.

Beyond that though, the "replace" half of their "repeal and replace" strategy has come up empty.

"Nothing has come to fruition because no legislation going through the Republican House would ever get through the Democratic Senate," said Gail Wilensky, a health economist who directed Medicare and Medicaid under President George H.W. Bush.

Those fruitless efforts include bills to permanently ban taxpayer money from being used to pay for abortions, enact protections for religious institutions that object to covering contraceptives and set new limits on medical malpractice lawsuits. We’re rating each of those a Promise Broken.

Of the other health care-related promises on our Pledge-O-Meter, we're going to keep three at Not Yet Rated.

In their "Pledge," Republicans promised to pass laws to lower insurance premiums and reduce the number of uninsured Americans, outlaw the practice by insurance companies of depriving coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and eliminate annual and lifetime spending caps on coverage. Those reforms are all a reality now, but not because Republicans in Congress pushed them through. They are all provisions of Obamacare, which passed in March 2010, six months before the Republicans issued their Pledge to America. So rather than give the GOP credit for something that occurred before they made their promises, we've decided to leave them unrated.

Robert Blendon, a Harvard University professor who studies health care polling, says there is no consensus among GOP members on a comprehensive health plan, so the party's health care efforts will continue to be piecemeal.

"Many Republicans have different views about how to solve this problem," said Blendon. "They were concerned with spending a lot of time developing an alternative bill, not knowing about the Supreme Court and having divisions within the party.

"It just was not in their interest of trying to go through the process of having an alternative."