Wyoming Senator John Barrasso has been a leading player in his party’s years-long effort to repeal and replace so-called Obamacare, but the GOP has failed to deliver.
Barrasso is a part of the GOP leadership team in the Senate and he used that perch to blast the Affordable Care Act at every turn, even co-hosting the underwhelming YouTube show "The Senate Doctors Show," with Tom Coburn of Oklahoma – the only other former doctor who was in the Senate back when Obamacare was seemingly all the GOP talked about. While the GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare failed by one vote in the Senate, Barrasso said he’s proud that his party has been able to undo parts of the health law.
“We’ve eliminated the mandate, the most hated part of Obamacare which has basically ripped a large hole in Obamacare.”
Barrasso claims that voters are pleased with the efforts of the GOP to dismantle Obamacare.
“I have people thanking me every day at home in Wyoming for eliminating this burdensome, expensive mandate that said they had to buy a government product.”
To Barrasso and others in the GOP chipping away at Obamacare is good, but to Democrats, Trump and the GOP’s efforts are hurting real people. New Jersey Democrat Frank Pallone says the GOP now owns the health care system because of their effort to undermine the system.
“He just continues to sabotage it, he’s doing everything possible to sabotage it and make it harder for people to get health insurance because the prices are gonna go up. The last two things were the risk adjustment payments, and now cutting back significantly on the outreach for navigators and others.”
And now that the president has canceled a ten billion dollar payment to insurance companies intended to be a bridge to stabilize the nation’s evolving health care system, Pallone and Democrats are eagerly running to preserve Obamacare this election year. He says the GOP is putting ideology above people.
“It’s a direct attack on consumers. Who benefits? No one benefits from this. Because he’s gonna argue that you’re giving money, that it’s costing the federal government money. What about the costs when people are uninsured they have to go to the emergency room and you have to pay for that — it’s like mean-spirited, really.”
But Barrasso argues the Trump administration canceled those insurance payments because a district court ruled against them and he says it highlights how bad of a policy the Affordable Care Act was from its inception.
“The issue is the court ruling in New Mexico that recently related to the fact that they’re dealing with a regulation written in the Obama Administration as a result of the Obamacare Law. So it’s the law and the regulations itself that have created this mess and we’re trying to get some clarification ways to help prevent premiums from going up.”
While the nation has largely been focused on immigration and tax reform and now the open Supreme Court seat, Democrats are vowing to refocus the debate on health care ahead of November’s elections. But Barrasso says that strategy won’t work in the mountain west.
“We have ranchers who had insurance that worked for them before Obamacare was passed and then under the Obama laws, it said it wasn’t good enough. The ranchers said it was good enough and they can afford it, but they weren’t even allowed to buy it anymore and were told they had to buy something much more expensive that wasn’t necessarily right for their families. So I’m trying to get to the point where people can buy what works for them and that they can afford. And it’s about giving people the freedom and the flexibility of affordable healthcare.”
Still, many Republicans from more purple areas are begging party leaders and the White House to pass a bill that would help stabilize the health insurance marketplace which is witnessing soaring premiums in part because of all the uncertainty from Congress. Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick says his party’s efforts to merely unwind Obamacare isn’t going to fly with his Philadelphia area constituents.
“They don’t like all the labels thrown around, they want a healthcare system that works. They want everybody to be covered. They want a health care system that encourages innovation, that reduces costs, that makes it affordable. Right now the, I believe the number one cause of personal bankruptcy is medical expenses. It's outrageous.”
But GOP leaders have brushed aside those efforts by more moderate Republicans to salvage parts of Obamacare, which Barrasso stands by. He added it’s better to undo Obamacare than to patch it up here and there.
“This recent ruling by a court really shows that Obamacare created a mess. And the ruling shows that the regulations written by the Obama Administration have made the mess worse. Which is now the whole issue of whether its even legal to make some of the payments Obamacare mandates. And Health and Human Services, the department is now working to try to clean up the mess that Obamacare created.”
The GOP spent the last few election cycles running against Obamacare, but this year Democrats have regrouped and are running on Obamacare. That means the debate isn’t going away, even if the majority of Republicans are still working to make sure the law goes away after withering on the vine.