As happens almost daily, when I take our family Shih Tzu-Poodle for a walk, he will invariably spot a lone squirrel near the driveway foraging for food in the front yard. Acting on pure instinct, Oreo will initiate a chase, presumably to catch the squirrel before it ascends to a nearby tree. Recently, Oreo surprised a ‘lazy’ squirrel and was within three yards of catching it, but the wily squirrel was able to outrace the jaws of our 20-lb house pet.
By watching this somewhat comical incident, I mused to my wife, “Assuming Oreo caught the squirrel, what would he actually do with it?” We both concluded that this particular pet would “have no clue” on how to proceed. For Oreo and most canines, chasing squirrels is essentially a ‘sport’ that requires little forethought about what may follow should the improbable event happen.
Following the November election results, we are bombarded daily with news about the fate of Obamacare. Since 2010, when the Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare) was created, Republicans have battered Democrats with generic claims that this legislation is directly responsible for rising premiums and frustrations within our country. Frankly, there are mixed truths to these claims. We can all agree, healthcare delivery and payment problems preceded this mammoth law, and many of these problems (e.g. overpriced and opaque healthcare) persist to this day.
In a different way, Obamacare has become the GOP’s ‘squirrel.’
I am often asked the question: “With Republicans taking control of both houses of Congress and the White House, how will ‘repeal and replace’ campaign promises play out?” Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer. Then again, nobody does – not even Republicans. Intra-party diversity on healthcare ideology is the only sure thing we know as 2017 begins. Even the savviest of policy wonks have nebulous notions about how to proceed with ‘fixing the atrocities’ of a major partisan law that has had almost seven full years to ‘bake’ within our health ‘system.’
This much is known. After the January 20 inauguration, the GOP will have the ability to begin dismantling Obamacare. Portions of this law, if related to federal revenues and spending, will require only a simple majority (51 votes) in the Senate for repealing – Republicans have 52 Senate votes in the new Congress. However, parts of the law not directly related to federal spending, such as insurance market reforms, require at least 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate – most likely resulting in a messy and prolonged process.
Suffice it to say, there are a myriad of routes that “repeal and replace” measures can take, with most all scenarios requiring a transitional period for replacement plans to buffer against coverage disruption. Yet again, one-fifth of our economy will be profoundly impacted by how the ‘other’ party will treat the captive squirrel.
Unless bipartisan support suddenly becomes ‘in vogue,’ any new legislation to replace Obamacare will consequently become a big target on the back of Republicans – a role reversal for both parties. The GOP will own their new creation and subsequently become the ‘hunted,’ an unenviable position to have in future elections.
The times they are a changin’. Maybe sometime soon, the squirrels will be chasing Oreo!
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