Over the past couple of weeks, perhaps since the results of the Mueller probe were made public, President Trump pivoted his attention to the idea of Republicans being the “party of healthcare” and fixing the current system by replacing the Affordable Care Act. His party has been down this road before with disastrous results in 2017 as Congress failed to coalesce around a plan and the repeal/replace legislation that did pass the House was ultimately shot down in the Senate – by John McCain.
Having failed to live up to the promise of repealing and replacing ObamaCare, Republicans retreated in 2017 and quietly stopped talking about healthcare reform, until now, as the Financial Times reported a few days ago:
President Donald Trump is ploughing ahead with a plan to make healthcare a key focus of the 2020 election, worrying fellow Republicans, and elating Democrats, who believe the issue is a winning one for their party.
While Mr Trump said he would hold off on forcing any big healthcare vote until after the 2020 election — a reversal from just a few days ago — the president has continued to raise the prospect of “a really great” Republican healthcare plan, which would have lower costs for consumers than Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA). Such a plan, the president claimed, was already in the works in Congress.
“I think the Republican party will become the party of healthcare,” Mr Trump said in the Oval Office on Tuesday. “I see what the Democrats are doing and it’s a disaster what they’re planning and everyone knows it . . . Obamacare has been such a catastrophe.”
Well, the “party of healthcare” lasted about five seconds before Sen. Mitch McConnell put the squash on the President’s newfound policy push. It should be said that the pushback goes far beyond McConnell. For one thing, Democrats control the House and there is exactly zero chance that any kind of ObamaCare repeal legislation would make it through.
Barring some completely unseen and unrealistic bipartisan compromise on ObamaCare reforms, the issue is dead for President Trump until his party takes back the House or something drastically changes that motivates both sides into action.
Trump backed away from the healthcare push by making claims about fixing the system after the 2020 Presidential election:
“The Republicans are developing a really great HealthCare Plan with far lower premiums (cost) & deductibles than ObamaCare. In other words it will be far less expensive & much more usable than ObamaCare. Vote will be taken right after the Election when Republicans hold the Senate & win back the House. It will be truly great HealthCare that will work for America,” Trump declared in a series of tweets. “Also, Republicans will always support Pre-Existing Conditions. The Republican Party will be known as the Party of Great HealtCare. Meantime, the USA is doing better than ever & is respected again!”
That’s all well and good, but the chances of Democrats losing the House in 2020 are rather slim yet possible. Furthermore, as many analysts would point out, Republicans still have yet to come up with a workable solution that the entire party can get behind.
Nonetheless, the President tossed it out there, then took it back, and now Democrats will have the 2020 election to push their own ideas.
Democrats Embrace Healthcare in 2020
According to public opinion polls, which beltway strategists and politicians on both sides pay close attention to, Democrats are winning on the question of which party is better at managing healthcare:
Polling data explain why Democrats believe healthcare will play well for them in 2020. Asked in 2018 exit polls which of the two parties would be better at helping Americans with pre-existing conditions, 58 per cent of voters said Democrats, while just 34 per cent said Republicans.
The 2020 Democratic field remains divided over how to approach the issue moving forward. Some candidates, like Bernie Sanders, have been very clear on a desire to completely eliminate private health insurance and move exclusively toward a single-payer European-style solution altogether.
Other candidates, sticking in a more moderate lane, have embraced various levels of the “Medicare-for-all” mantle, some which include keeping private insurance, some which include eliminating it, or some with a mix of private and public health plans.
The President’s decision to enter the healthcare fray has given cover for Democrats who remain almost as divided on the healthcare issue as Republicans:
In the meantime, Mr Trump’s focus on the issue helped shift attention away from the Democratic divide over “Medicare For All” — a proposal to expand the healthcare plan covering older people to all Americans.
While most Democrats believe that US healthcare coverage should be expanded, there are divisions over how to pay for such an expansion and whether Americans should be allowed to keep their existing private insurance.
“Anything that is able to tamp down this debate so it doesn’t become divisive for the party is good news for Democrats,” Mr Aaron said.
Healthcare was a winning issue for Democrats in 2018, and there’s no reason to believe anything has changed for 2020. The current system is a hodgepodge of problems as ObamaCare has been partially dismantled and insurance premiums and deductibles continue to rise which has left many paying massive monthly premiums.
Changing the system will always create new winners and new losers. Many consumers end up losing in the short term since plan changes mean different doctors and different networks which is very disruptive.
Healthcare is a touchy subject for both parties. Republicans have been unable to capitalize on the early unpopularity of ObamaCare and Democrats have been unable to push minor tweaks and reforms to improve it.
Healthcare in 2020 is stuck at a stalemate that won’t be broken until voters demand it and lawmakers can agree on some kind of bipartisan as a solution.
Are voters ready to embrace the “Medicare-for-all” push in 2020? Some Democrats are betting on it, as this guide from the Washington Post explains.
The graphic below separates the field into two groups. Those to have expressed support for “Medicare-for-all” and those who prefer something else:
The major Democratic presidential contenders have been vocal about the need to expand health-care coverage for more Americans. But they are split on how, opening a key policy rift in the 2020 presidential campaign, particularly over the most ambitious of these plans: Medicare-for-all.
Some Democrats have called for the United States to achieve Medicare-for-all through a single-payer system, in which all Americans would be enrolled automatically on a government plan. Other candidates have said that they believe Medicare-for-all is a good long-term goal, while stopping short of calling for a single-payer system. Others still believe in more modest measures to expand health insurance, believing Medicare-for-all could trigger a political backlash.
The debate over these plans — as well as their objective, details and impact on the health-care industry — is expected to play a major role animating the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The question will not be settled quickly or easily, and both sides will need to compromise. It’s incredibly unlikely that an overhaul which eliminates private insurance would be acceptable to a majority of voters, it’s simply too much of a change for America’s current system.
The 2020 Democratic field will hash this out and ultimately make it an issue that Republicans will have to respond to and President Trump will have to address during the campaign.