Column: Does the GOP want to repeal Obamacare? Take them literally and seriously.

March 28, 2022 7:00 am

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Feb. 26, 2022, in Orlando. .He has proposed undoing much of the nation’s social safety net if Republicans retake the U.S. House and Senate. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Victoria Schiano’s son, Cole, is 5 1/2. And he’s enduring what no kid his age should ever be asked to endure.

He has mitochondrial disease, lives with a a central line to his heart, and has a feeding tube connected to his stomach and his intestines. He also needs constant monitoring for his seizure disorder. He has anxiety. And he’s on the autism spectrum.

Schiano, of Downingtown, Pa., is her son’s primary caregiver. And that’s made it hard for her to hold a job, she said during a press call organized by Pennsylvania Democrats.

But because of the Affordable Care Act, and its cost-saving measures and patient protection language, Schiano, and her husband Ryan, can shoulder the “hospital-level of care” that their son requires.

“Health care for Cole means he gets to be home with his family where he belongs, instead of a facility miles away,” Schiano said.”The Affordable Care Act has allowed for him to be home.”

With the midterm elections just months away, and control of Capitol Hill on the line, Republicans are making fresh noises about an assault on the Obama-era law, which is now 12 years old.

More than a decade from its introduction, and its successful passage into law, hundreds of millions of Americans have benefited from the Affordable Care Act’s ban on the denial of coverage based on preexisting conditions, as well as a Medicaid expansion that has benefited tens of millions more people.

While it had a troubled adolescence, the law has only grown in popularity, with a clear majority of Americans (55 percent) telling Kaiser Health they supported the law in 2020 as the U.S. Supreme Court took up a challenge to the law, Forbes reported. That included Republicans who favored the preexisting condition ban.

But that has not proven an impediment for the GOP, which remains as steadfast in its opposition as ever — even if it cost them the U.S. House in 2018.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), whom I’m convinced most often says things just to hear himself talk, was forced to backtrack in the face of scorching criticism after he told Breitbart News that repealing the ACA should be a priority for Republicans if they won back Congress and the White House in 2024, the Washington Post reported.

While Johnson said he supports fixing the nation’s health care system, he was not suggesting that “repealing and replacing Obamacare should be one of [the GOP’s] priorities,” the Guardian reported.

Nonetheless, this is an instance where (to borrow a phrase) Republicans need to be taken both literally and seriously.

The head of the Senate Republicans’ campaign wing, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) already has rolled out a stupendously wrong-headed policy agenda that takes a sledgehammer to the nation’s social safety net, even as it raises taxes on the poorest Americans.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said no such plan will pass while he’s running the Senate GOP. An additional fringe benefit — Republicans also have proven almost comically incompetent at actually coming up with a replacement for the health care law.

You’ll recall that former President Donald Trump spent almost the entirety of his presidency promising that a “phenomenal” replacement was mere weeks away, but never actually delivered on it. In the end, he settled for an executive order rebranding it, the Post reported.

But the fact that Republicans are talking seriously about this is worrying enough. Even if it faces a guaranteed White House veto, it’s not hard to imagine reinvigorated GOP majorities in the House and Senate trying to repeal the law in 2023, even as they work to stymie President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda heading into 2024.

Hence this week’s press calls, one of the many that Democrats have been holding over the past few months to tout the components of Biden’s agenda — from jobs and COVID to infrastructure and school funding  — as they try to rally Democrats ahead of a tough campaign season.

“Repealing the ACA means that an individual with cancer would once again be denied coverage because they have a preexisting condition. It would mean a 22-year-old graduating from college can’t stay on their parents’ health plan while they’re looking for a job. It means every American would lose access to preventative services like flu shots, cancer screenings, and other vaccines,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.).

State Rep. Bridget M. Kosierowski, a Democrat who’s the Pennsylvania House’s only nurse, issued a similarly dire warning, saying, “no legislator or candidate should every put forth an agenda that dismantles” the law.

Kosierowski, whose son fought leukemia as a child, said she was moved to run in 2018 after the GOP launched its assault on Obamacare in that contentious midterm year.

The law “has transformed the American health care system,” she said, adding that Republicans should ” … stop [their] outrageous threats.”

The pandemic, which cost us so much, underlined the importance of the nation’s health care system. And so many sick Americans were able to obtain treatment because of the coverage they had through the Affordable Care Act.

What has happened once can happen again. That’s reason enough to take GOP threats literally and seriously. And it’s reason enough to make sure they do not prevail.

A version of this column first ran in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, an affiliate with the Phoenix in the nonprofit States Newsroom network.

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John Micek
John Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.