The Republicans control every piece of machinery in Washington, D.C., but they've been operating all that powerful hardware like a sketchy bus driver fresh off a five-martini lunch. Last night, their latest attempt to replace Obamacare collapsed. Their only remaining plan, according to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, is to simply repeal Obamacare with no replacement at all.
That is a spectacularly terrible idea! Experts on both sides of the aisle warn that killing Obamacare outright would destabilize the marketplace, wreak havoc on premiums and eventually leave up to 32 million people without health care if the GOP doesn't eventually come up with a replacement (a feat they've not even come close to pulling off so far).
In fact, one of the only people on Capitol Hill enthused by the idea is our own Sen. Marco Rubio. In a Facebook Live message posted this morning, Rubio said he'd happily vote for an Obamacare repeal with no replacement.
"Senator McConnell, the majority leader, is going to move for a vote to simply repeal Obamacare. I have voted for that in the past, and I would do it again," Rubio said. "I believe Obamacare is broken and I believe it's bad for our country."
Let us count the ways repealing Obamacare with zero plan in place to replace it would be a very bad move.
In the short term, repealing Obamacare — even with a built-in "delay" of up to two years before it fully goes into effect, as the GOP has sometimes advocated — would have immediate repercussions: The insurers who are already shakily propping up exchanges would likely bail en masse . The collateral damage would be hard to predict, and could lead to skyrocketing premiums, mass health care coverage loss, and economic strife.
And that's just in the short term. The real problems would set in if the GOP couldn't come up with a viable replacement in whatever time frame they build for themselves. After the last six months, does anyone truly believe the GOP could pull together a real replacement plan that would pass a full vote — even with a two-year window? And what if they lose control of the Senate or House in the meantime?
Letting Obamacare fully expire with nothing to replace it would be the true nuclear option. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that would leave as many as 32 million Americans without basic coverage. In Florida — and Miami in particular, which leads the nation in Obamacare enrollees — the effect would be devastating.
Much of Rubio's own party is horrified by this idea. Here's staunchly conservative Rep. Jeff Fortenberry this afternoon: "Repeal with no replacement would be disastrous." By midafternoon, enough GOP Senators had revolted that McConnell will likely have to ditch this idea too.
So why the hell is Rubio backing the plan?
The way he sees it, there are unseen victims of Obamacare no one is talking about. Impoverished families squeezed by states like Florida that refused to expand Medicaid? Rural communities hurt by a concerted effort to tank exchanges?
No! Rubio's real victims are, uh, millennials who don't want insurance but still have to pay big premiums for bad coverage.
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"Let me tell you about the people who are 31, 32, 33 years old, who are working hard but they don't have insurance and so they have to pay astronomical figures," Rubio says. "Their copayments are so high, they're basically uninsured... They don't have an organization to protest for them. They're the forgotten people in this debate."
No one is going to argue that our current health care system makes a ton of sense for anyone, much less millennials, many of whom are eking out livings in a gig economy that forces them to piece together scraps of pitifully bad, overpriced health care.
But Rubio's take is that they want that terrible health coverage, and the only crime is they can't pay what it's worth: Not very much.
Marco Rubio's own family has happily benefited from Obamacare. He has also taken $2.5 million in donations from health care interests. Do not trust Marco Rubio's take on health care.