The Obamacare hot potato
Most of us have played hot potato at some point in our childhood. It's a game where players sit in a circle and toss a small object like a beanbag to each other while music plays. When the music stops, the player holding the bag is eliminated.
Our adult children, aka Congress, are playing a variation of this game. Their beanbag is Obamacare and they're frantically tossing it around trying to stay in the game.
Speaker Paul Ryan lost the first round. Poor thing couldn't get the votes to pass the bill on to the Senate, so he was left holding the bag.
In the second round, the speaker handed off to Mitch McConnell, but alas, the Senate couldn't get the votes, either, and now the Senate is out.
The senators don't love their odds, so they brought in a new player: the states. Lindsey Graham, a NeverTrump, establishment hack, worked with Senator Bill Cassidy and came up with the great idea to give their ill gotten gains (Obamacare subsidies) to the states and let them deal with it.
The Graham-Cassidy plan proposes distributing some federal funding currently available under the Affordable Care Act directly to states in the form of block grants. From 2020 to 2026, states would receive a set amount of federal funding to be used at their discretion for health care coverage, but cost-sharing subsidies the federal government pays to insurance companies to lower the cost of some plans on the individual insurance markets and money some states receives to expand their Medicaid rolls would go away.
So they're going to temporarily shift funds to states to manage, take away insurance subsidies that lowered the cost of plans, and cut Medicaid expansion. What could go wrong?
Senator Rand Paul summed up some potential disasters:
"Obamacare took a long time to get in place. Can you imagine every state's got to go through this, and you have to start completely over with all these different subsidies at the state level? Some will have subsidies, some won't. Some states may go to a single-payer. I mean, I think it will be a chaotic sort of nature for two years." The bill wouldn't do away with state-based exchanges, but those states would need to come up with their own way of administering the funds.
So if Moonbeam Jerry Brown uses his block grant for illegals' health care or to fund California's single-payer dream, those currently stuck with Obamacare will lose their subsidies. The Democrats and their media will shout to the heavens that Republicans took away their health care. There will be interviews with every man, woman, and child who lost his health insurance because he lost his subsidy and couldn't pay. Statisticians will point out this ridiculous handoff to states who were never in the health care subsidy business and had no clue how to manage the money.
Or if Governor Kasich decides it's only fair to use the block grant to cover the deficit created for his state when Congress cut expanded Medicaid, people in Ohio will lose their subsidies. Again, the left-wing media will get every one of their tear-stained faces on the evening news. And Republicans will own it. The president will own it.
Bottom line, if this grand experiment fails in any way to improve people's situation, it's on Republicans. If the plan doesn't reduce premiums, or if, God forbid, it actually increases premiums, the president will be blamed.
Once the Republicans pass any bill to "replace" Obamacare, they own it. Once the president signs the Graham-Cassidy bill, it has his name on it. And if this hasn't been thought through because the GOP has to pass something, anything, it could spell disaster down the road.
Of course, the "replace" bill could go smooth as silk, nary a problem. But seriously, when has a government project ever improved anything?
The cold, hard fact is that any tinkering with Obamacare will come back to haunt the president. The only way to keep the Republican tag off Obamacare is to repeal it, disown it, and get the government out of our health care.
That will never happen, because the truth is, they've got us. Democrats and Republicans are all in for a government solution for what never should have been a government problem. But at least we have bipartisanship of sorts, a common goal for both parties at last: to keep Obamacare.
Once the Senate passes the Graham-Cassidy plan, it'll toss it to the House. The House, eager to give the president a win, will rubber-stamp and pass it to the president.
And President Trump, played by his own party once again, will be the one left holding the bag.