Why Repeal-and-Delay Is a Risky Health Care Strategy – The New …

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Partial repeal would lead to such messy consequences because it would undo only the funding for Obamacare, not its regulatory structure. The health law balances rules that require robust insurance benefits and that allow sick people to buy insurance at standard prices; there are financial incentives for low-income Americans to buy insurance, and penalties for many Americans who remain uninsured. Both the law’s carrot and its stick would go away under a repeal bill.

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Why Repeal-and-Delay Is a Risky Health Care Strategy - The New ... cdf36 08up delay2 master675

President Trump and Senator Ted Cruz have each talked up the possibility of repealing Obamacare without an immediate replacement.

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Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

The budget office has not assessed what might happen during a one- or two-year delay period, because it hasn’t evaluated legislation that included it. But I spoke with a range of experts about the idea when it first came into fashion, and they were skeptical that the status quo could float along until a new political compromise arrived.

Obamacare’s insurance markets depend on the voluntary participation of private insurance companies, and most of them see those markets as difficult long-term investments. Many of them might choose to retreat to safer lines of business in the uncertain “zombie” period between the passage of such a repeal bill and its ultimate enactment.

The result might be chaos for consumers unable to find affordable plans — or even any plans, in some parts of the country. Lawmakers may not be able to control the timing of Obamacare’s demise with such a strategy.

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The plan also assumes that a looming crisis will provide enough political incentive for a future compromise. President Trump has been clear that he wants to do more than just get rid of chunks of Obamacare. His stated health care goals include providing a robust safety net for the poor, covering more Americans and driving down the cost of insurance.

Those goals are clearly in some conflict with the current Senate bill. But they are even more of a mismatch with the projected consequences of a bill that would simply defund Obamacare’s main coverage provisions.

There are also reasons to wonder if increased pressure would, in fact, bring lawmakers closer to compromise. The very Republicans most enthusiastic about a repeal-only strategy seem less interested in pursuing a separate, costly replacement provision.

Mr. Cruz has argued for years that Obamacare should be undone wholesale, and he has not been alone in that view. Democrats, who worked hard to expand coverage under the Affordable Care Act, might wish to prevent sharp coverage losses. But they might also be willing to wait and let Republicans take the blame for any chaos they unleash.

That makes a repeal-and-delay strategy a gamble, not just practically, but politically, too.

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