Government attempts to provide healthcare to over 300 million Americans is a noble goal. The first effort was in Teddy Roosevelt’s 1912 Progressive Party platform that “sickness insurance” should be guaranteed by the states. TR lost and the issue has bedeviled Democrats and Republicans ever since.
Political parties who lay their antiseptic gloves on health care suffer the voters’ scorn. President Clinton’s failed attempt contributed to the Democrats losing 52 seats in 1994; and the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare’s passage led to the Dems losing 63 seats in 2010. Trumpcare is likely to lead Republicans to pay a political price.
Health care is a unique and perhaps intractable issue that requires bipartisan support to avoid tagging one political party with the blame. The commonality of Obamacare and Trumpcare—each was passed on a strictly partisan support.
Every government program has “winners and losers,” but the losers in healthcare reform are unique. Losers in other programs may pay more taxes, incur delays in processing their Social Security checks or visit unkempt national parks. None are life-threatening. Losers in healthcare reform can suffer or die.
The Democrats believe they have a winning issue for 2018. We can expect an updated version of the classic ad, “Granny in a Wheelchair” being rolled over the cliff. Gut wrenching television and internet ads will have those who suffered bankruptcy, disabilities or the death of a loved one and all will blame the GOP. There is no emotional equivalent of an ad bemoaning high taxes or excessive government regulations.
Focusing on the political aspects of the bill, the Trump administration and House Speaker Paul Ryan had to pass something. Republicans ached for a legislative victory. The GOP cannot campaign for seven years against the evils of Obamacare, achieve majority status, and fail to enact legislation.
It was high risk poker due to the bill’s prior failure. Trump dug into the legislative trenches, made the phone calls and took the meetings. Trump closed the deal.
Republicans may have celebrated too soon with their victory dance in the Rose Garden. The fate of the House bill will be decided by the Senate and that will take months as the bill moves through its “reconciliation” process. The Senate will not be burdened with the demands of the ideological Freedom Caucus; the bill will be substantially amended.
Trump and Ryan needed a victory. However this bill may prove to be a pyrrhic victory. A political party is dealing in political peril to reduce government benefits once bestowed, especially on a program critical to one’s health.
If the electorate turns on the Republicans for perceived or real losses under Trumpcare; a future Democratic president and Democratic Congressional majority will take the logical progression to enact a measure of universal health care.