Health care is back in the spotlight thanks to a controversial decision by the Trump administration to side with a Fifth Circuit court ruling that deemed ObamaCare unconstitutional. Reports indicate that both Congressional Republicans as well as some within Trump’s cabinet were blindsided by the Justice Department’s decision. When health care takes center stage, it usually spells trouble for the GOP. It also presents an opportunity for Democrats.
Repealing and replacing ObamaCare has been a familiar Republican battle cry over the past several years. However, over time, ObamaCare has gained support among Americans and in the 2018 midterm elections, health care was cited as a top issue for voters. Many say that health care, and attacks on ObamaCare in particular, helped the Democrats regain the House majority.
President Trump has asserted that the GOP will become the party of health care, but there is no indication that Congressional Republicans have a plan. Meanwhile, House Democrats have stepped up with a specific policy package called Protect Our Care.
The proposal would help strengthen and expand ObamaCare. In doing so, it puts Republicans and progressive Democrats on notice; House leadership is sending a signal that eliminating ObamaCare is not an option and single-payer is not the answer.
Why is this important? Because main stream Democrats have a chance to reclaim the narrative about health care in a meaningful way. It was a winning issue for them in last year’s midterms, and it can be a winning issue for them in 2020 – unless they get distracted by the wrong things.
What might those things be? Never-ending investigations. People outside of the Beltway are far more concerned about kitchen table issues like the cost and quality of their health care, than they are about relitigating the Russia collusion theory that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has just completed a thorough investigation of.
Yes, Congress has oversight authority to investigate the executive branch, but it should exercise those Constitutional duties judiciously to ensure that its work is taken seriously. Democrats run a major risk if they focus their efforts on further investigations rather than on making laws.
Doing so will play right into the hand of President Trump, who has already asserted that the Mueller investigation was a waste of time, that it proves his innocence, and that it was – as he said all along – a witch hunt. Whether those assertions are factually accurate or not is irrelevant; the longer Democrats fixate on Trump, the more they will make Trump look right about them.
Democrats have a golden opportunity to make the 2020 election about issues, not indictments, and they are well positioned to show that they are defending the well-being of the American people by juxtaposing their health care policies to Trump’s.
If the Trump administration’s views on health care were to be implemented, roughly 10.1 million Americans would stand to lose their health care premium subsidies, and around 15 million would lose coverage through the elimination of Medicaid expansion.
As it is, since Trump has been in office, cuts have been made to important programs that help Americans enroll in ObamaCare, and that stabilize the insurance market. These moves have contributed to an increase in the number of uninsured people to the tune of about 7 million. Trump has proven that his actions do not match his words when it comes to preserving health care coverage.
These are bad policies. And bad policy often equates to bad politics. States like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania would be disproportionately impacted by an ObamaCare repeal. That could spell trouble for Trump’s Electoral College path to victory in 2020.
I hope Democrats stay the course and show they’re serious about making health care policy that helps the American people.