Republicans' Crazy Plan to Roll Back Advances on Health Care Would Also Wreck the Economy

by Faiz Shakir, Benjamin Armbruster, George Zornick, Zaid Jilani, Alex Seitz-Wald, and Tanya Somanader

This week, conservatives in the House and Senate plan to push to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care reforms that President Obama signed into law last March. By repealing this legislation, these lawmakers plan to make good on a major campaign promise that they championed during the election season. But the truth is that repealing the legislation would undermine these same lawmakers' stated goals of fostering job growth and slashing the deficit. Most importantly, repealing the legislation would remove access to health care for millions of Americans, and continue to lead to the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of people. Furthermore, while the right may claim that Americans want to see the legislation repealed in favor of a more free-market approach to health care -- which has no history of working anywhere -- the truth is that more Americans want to see the law made more progressive, not less. 

REPEAL AND REPLACE?: The Republican-controlled House of Representatives was originally scheduled to vote for repealing the federal heath care law on January 13, but the measure was postponed due to the tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and eighteen others. In order to repeal the law, House Republicans have introduced H.R. 2, the Repealing The Job-Killing Health Care Law Act. While one of the rallying cries of the Republican Party was that it planned to "repeal and replace" the health care law, their bill includes no replacement for the expanded coverage and protections found within the text of the recently-passed federal health care legislation. The Washington Post reports that, in the "absence of a plan, Republican leaders nevertheless are eager to convey that they have ideas about health care," yet the only resolution they have drafted to accompany the repeal legislation simply lays out "broad, long-held GOP health-care goals, but no specifics." This lack of specificity about what exactly the Republicans will be replacing the bill with irked Dan Fonte, a constituent of Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH), who confronted his representative during a recent town hall meeting. "Why don't you make a replacement plan before you repeal it so we can look at it?" he asked, receiving applause from the audience. "Let's think about this before we jump and do whatever we wanna do." Renacci had no response for Fonte. Of course, those pushing for repeal may not seriously be thinking about fixing the American health care system at all, considering they know that their repeal push will likely not make it past the U.S. Senate or the president's veto pen. 

THE COSTS OF REPEAL: What would happen if the conservatives actually succeeded in repealing the health care law without replacing it with any meaningful legislation? For one, many of the GOP's own campaign promises of growing the economy and lowering the debt would be undermined. While House Republicans have given their legislation an Orwellian title that suggests that the health care law kill jobs, the opposite is actually true: repealing the bill would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. "The claim has no justification," said Micah Weinberg, a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation's Health Policy Program, of the GOP's job-killing claims. As CAP's David M. Cutler notes in his report "Repealing Health Care Is A Job Killer," repealing the law would slow annual job growth by "250,000 to 400,000 jobs annually."  Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that repealing the bill would increase the deficit by $230 billion over the next ten years. Even more importantly, repealing the new law would cause 32 million Americans to lose health care coverage and put insurance companies back in charge by allowing them to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. This would be particularly tragic when looked at in the light of a new Health and Human Services study released this week that finds that nearly half of the population under the age of 65 has one or more pre-existing conditions. Additionally, as Richard Kirsch of the Roosevelt Institute writes, repealing the new law would lead to the death of 32,000 Americans every year simply because they couldn't afford to get the health care they need to live. 

NOT WHAT AMERICANS WANT: The right often claims that it has a wide mandate from the American people to repeal the health care law and pursue a right-wing ideological approach that leaves more individuals to fend for themselves in the private market. Yet the most recent polling on the subject shows that this simply isn't true. An Associated Press-GfK poll released yesterday found that "only about 1 in 4" Americans support repealing the health care law (the strongest support for repeal is from Republicans, where 1 in 4 actually want to keep it). Meanwhile, polling suggests that Americans actually either support the law or want it to be made more progressive, not less. A CNN/Opinion Research poll published last month found that 56 percent of Americans either favor the law or want it to be more "liberal." A recently released Marist poll finds that more Americans want to change the law "so it does more" than want to "change it so that it does less" and that more Americans want to keep the law than replace it. Indeed, a large majority of Americans support progressive policies like adding a Medicare-style public option and allowing re-importation of drugs from Canada. What is clear from all this polling is that Americans are ready to fix our broken health care system and want to continue to make progress, not repeal the law and force the country down the old path with more than 50 million people uninsured and a health care system that is bankrupting Americans and causing thousands to die simply because they can't afford to live.


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