Despite GOP Concerns, Wyoming Delegation Still Wants To Repeal And Replace

Feb 24, 2017

Cheyenne Regional Medical Center Emergency Room
Credit Bob Beck

The Republican Party hates so-called Obamacare, but when it comes to replacing the bill the party is divided over how to change the health care system.

You’ve heard about the angry protests at Republican town halls across the nation, but you may not know there’s also a heated debate happening inside closed door Republican meetings on Capitol Hill. The thirty or so member House Freedom Caucus voted as a block to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act before the party even has a replacement in hand.

Wyoming Senator John Barrasso says change is needed, but admits they need a plan.

“We need to repeal and then repair the damage that has been done by this, provide relief.”

While that repeal and repair is angering conservative lawmakers, more moderate Republicans are warning the party of a potential backlash if they quickly rip health insurance away from millions of people. The fear is that the backlash could cost lawmakers some seats. New Jersey Republican Tom MacArthur even voted against the budget Republicans passed that set the ball rolling for repealing the health law.

“Where we are today with a Republican Congress and a Republican White House we’re not passing messaging bills here. We are shooting live rounds.”

New Jersey has a Republican governor but it expanded Medicaid under Obamacare. Republicans there and elsewhere worry about what to do with those millions of people who now have health insurance for the first time. That’s why MacArthur says his party needs a replacement in hand soon.

“Before we repeal we need to know what the replacement is going to look like, so I cannot support that drive to repeal and then hope things work out – a hope so, maybe so replacement is no replacement at all.”

But Republicans in rural red states, like Wyoming, don’t want to have to pay for the Medicaid expansion in other states. Congressman Liz Cheney said she’s watching the issue closely.

“Now in particular, Wyoming has got a number of really important issues and concern because we’re a rural state, because we’re a small state population wise. Because we did not expand Medicaid and so it’s going to be a real priority for me to make sure that we have a good solution so that the states that didn’t expand Medicaid aren’t in a position where we’re hurt by that.”

Cheney also said the party shouldn’t take insurance away from people without giving them a way to access coverage.

“I think it’s going to be really important to make sure that people don’t lose their coverage, the things that we talked about before. That we’re not in a position where we’re pulling the rug out from under folks.”

Cheney said allowing people to get insurance across state lines could help drive costs down and provide people cheaper options than existed before Obamacare passed.

“You know in the past when we’ve tried to allow that in Wyoming at a state level, it’s been very difficult because our healthcare costs are so high and because our population is so small, but hopefully if we have a situation where you’ve got those restrictions lifted nationwide, people really will be able to begin to have more choice.”

As the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee Wyoming’s senior Senator, Mike Enzi, is working with party leaders to craft a viable replacement option. In the past, Enzi has said he wants to replace Obamacare, but he wants congress to take its time.  He said he’s hearing concerns from Republicans across the political spectrum, but he says the party isn’t as divided as Democrats are trying to portray them as.

“Oh no, I’ve known that this is a very difficult task with a lot of different opinions, at least one for every senator so I’m just trying to coordinate it.”

Enzi is confident the party can pass a replacement bill and send it to President Trump for his signature.

“Of course we’ll get it. And they’ll like it,” said Enzi.

As for the details of that bill – and the timeline – there doesn’t seem to be any consensus in the GOP as of yet.