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Wyoming Lawmakers Are Ready To Battle Over Health Care

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President Trump is now backing a lawsuit that would invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act, and that's promising to make health care a major election issue next year. Wyoming Republicans are fine with that, even though they have failed to repeal and replace when they controlled both chambers of Congress.

Republicans did wipe out the law's mandate that everyone has health insurance, and the administration tried to invalidate the requirement that insurance companies can't discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions.

Now the president is backing a lawsuit that would wipe out the entire Affordable Care Act. Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney is a big fan of the move.

"I think Obamacare is unconstitutional."

Cheney also wants the courts to shred the entire law, but Cheney said this week she supports protections for people with pre-existing conditions. She said Republicans are fighting that narrative.

"We as a party are going to be on the offensive. The Democrats are going to continue to peddle this notion, this lie that somehow Republicans don't want to cover people with preexisting conditions. They're doing that because they don't want people focused on a couple of things - number one, what a train wreck Obamacare has been," said Cheney.

But Democrats say Republican leaders like Cheney and Trump are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the American people. Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey said Republican efforts to invalidate all of Obamacare reveals how their party doesn't actually want to provide health care to all Americans.

"It's frankly not surprising if you examine what Republicans have been doing the last couple years it's very consistent, they want to rip it away. They've never come up with an alternative that is in any way comparable," said Casey.

Casey said Democrats will be on the offensive themselves regarding health care. He said his party is going to hammer home to voters how GOP leaders want to end preexisting condition coverage while also not offering a viable alternative.

"Part of the reason for that is it's just not high on their priority list, and it's going to be a huge issue in the election. They have in my judgment very little prospect of preserving preexisting conditions protections. They say it, but they've got to prove it and they haven't been able to do that," said Casey.

Those charges irritate many Republicans, especially Wyoming's junior senator, John Barrasso.

"People in Wyoming know me as a doctor and know my wife Bobby as a breast cancer survivor - having been through three operations and chemotherapy twice - know that as a doctor and as a husband I'm very committed to make sure everyone with preexisting conditions continues with their coverage."

Barrasso said it should be no secret the GOP wants to wipe Obamacare off the books, but that doesn't mean they don't want to replace it.

"What's happening now around the country is, I continue to hear - and I was in Wyoming this past weekend - of people who are left down by the promises of Obamacare because the rates have gone up so high insurance is unaffordable," said Barrasso.

As for what's politically possible now that Democrats control the House? Barrasso said he's hopeful the two parties can keep tackling the relatively low hanging fruit that's weighing down the current health system.

"There are things we can do to lower drug costs, and the president has done a number of those things. We have in a bipartisan way eliminated the gag rule on pharmacists so patients can now talk to pharmacists about finding ways to cheaper costs."

And now basically all of the Democrats running for president are embracing so-called Medicare for All proposals that aim to eventually put most all Americans on government administered health plans. Congresswoman Cheney said the far left turn of the Democratic Party will come back to bite them.

"In addition to all that if you think Obamacare is bad just wait for the next shoe to drop, which for the Democrats is Medicare for All. They want the government in charge of everyone's health care. They don't want to talk about it. They can't even get a budget put together because it's so expensive. The combination of their government takeover of health care and the Green New Deal means they can't even get a budget put on the floor," said Cheney.

Trump now says the GOP will wait until after the 20-20 election to try to overhaul the health care system again - a strategy Cheney supports.

"The president has made very clear that Republicans are going to be focused on making sure people have choices, have access, have affordable care, but that we're in a situation where they get to make those decisions, not this one size fits all federal government and we're going to continue working on that both here in the House and in the Senate," said Cheney.

While the extreme wings of the two parties want to either invalidate Obamacare or put everyone on government-run health insurance, there is a bipartisan group of lawmakers looking for a path to try and stabilize the current system. But with 2020 politics already heating up, it's unlikely party leaders can bridge the ideological divide in the near future.

Based on Capitol Hill, Matt Laslo is a reporter who has been covering campaigns and every aspect of federal policy since 2006. While he has filed stories for NPR and more than 40 of its affiliates, he has also written for Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, The Daily Beast, The Chattanooga Times Free Press, The Guardian, The Omaha World-Herald, VICE News and Washingtonian Magazine.

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