- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 7, 2017

Hoping Trumpcare does for them what Obamacare did for Republicans at the ballot box, Democrats have seized on the House repeal-and-replace bill even as Republicans insist that fans of the collapsing health care exchange are deluding themselves.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan described Thursday’s vote on the House bill as a “rescue operation” for the moribund Affordable Care Act as it struggles with soaring premium costs, flagging enrollment and fleeing insurers.

“The system is failing. We’re stepping in front of it and rescuing people from a collapsing system,” Mr. Ryan told ABC’s “This Week.” “And, more importantly, we’re keeping our word.”

For sheer shock value, however, it may be hard to top the Democrats. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts predicted on Twitter that “people will die,” and Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont accused Republicans of celebrating a vote to “let thousands of Americans die so that billionaires get tax breaks.”

White House counsel Kellyanne Conway on Sunday blasted the “people will die” message as “outrageous and untrue,” taking the mainstream media to task for acting as “enablers” for “not calling out those breathless, heartless predictions.”

She cited Iowa, where 94 of 99 counties have just one insurance company under the Obamacare exchange, saying, “That’s not choice. That’s not competition, and that example is going on everywhere.

“Why have so many Americans asked for Obamacare to be repealed and replaced? It’s because the premiums have increased by 40 percent on average — 100 percent in some places,” Ms. Conway said on “Fox & Friends.”

Still, Democrats have reason for optimism: The Cook Political Report moved 20 House race ratings in the party’s direction Friday after the passage of the American Health Care Act, which repeals and replaces Obamacare.

Save My Care, a pro-Obamacare advocacy group, has targeted 24 House Republicans in a six-figure ad buy over their support for the AHCA, which passed Thursday with no Democratic votes.

The ad blasts Republicans in potentially tight 2018 races for voting for “a disastrous health care repeal bill,” but doesn’t mention by name the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

Republicans received a taste of things to come after being hammered repeatedly on the Sunday talk shows about the bill, particularly the Congressional Budget Office report showing that Medicaid would be cut by $880 billion over a 10-year period under the American Health Care Act.

Health and Human Services Secretary Thomas Price pushed back on the estimate, insisting that “there are no cuts to the Medicaid program.”

“There are increases in spending,” said Mr. Price on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But what we’re doing is apportioning it in a way that allows the states greater flexibility to cover their Medicaid and care for their Medicaid population.”

He added that, “Again, what the Congressional Budget Office measures is spending as if nothing changes at all, as if the program is doing just fine, thank you very much.”

The co-architect of Obamacare, MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber, blasted the House bill, saying it “does nothing to fix our U.S. health care system.”

“All it does is just massively cut funds to have a large tax break,” Mr. Gruber said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Mr. Gruber, who once credited the “stupidity of the American voter” for the passage of Obamacare, drew a double-take when he blamed Mr. Trump for the problems with insurers dropping out of the health care exchange.

After being told that Iowa’s lone insurance company in 94 of its 99 counties is considering dropping out, Mr. Gruber said, “Look, and whose fault is this?

“Before President Trump was elected, there were no counties in America that did not have an insurer,” Mr. Gruber said. “Since President Trump has been elected — “

Host Chris Wallace then interrupted Mr. Gruber and said, “Wait, you’re going to blame the problems with Obamacare on President Trump?”

The Affordable Care Act was signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, but Mr. Gruber said that the president has undermined Obamacare since taking office Jan. 20.

“Insurers’ profits were trending positively, insurers were saying positive things about their ability to stay in the exchange, to succeed,” Mr. Gruber said. “Then you have a president who comes in, undercuts open enrollment, doesn’t honor the obligations this law makes to insurers.”

As a result, he said, “premiums are going up and insurers are exiting.”

Republican strategist Karl Rove said that Mr. Trump may have stopped the Affordable Care Act enrollment advertising after assuming office, but that Obamacare’s problems with soaring premiums and fleeing insurers began long before that.

“Trump stopped the ads on the 26th of January, and the end of the enrollment period was the 31st,” Mr. Rove said. “Really? The problems of Obamacare are going to be solved by four days’ worth of TV ads?”

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said he wasn’t concerned about the party’s 2018 election prospects, predicting Republicans would be “rewarded” by following through on their repeal pledge and pointing to the political establishment’s shaky track record when it comes to forecasting events involving President Trump.

He also predicted that people would support Republicans after experiencing the benefits of the new health care system.

“We believe this is going to be a better product,” Mr. Priebus said. “And by the time the people see that premiums are lower, it’s a better service, there are more options and more choices, they’re going to reward Republicans that stood up and said, ‘We’re not going to see the Obamacare system, which is failing and collapsing, continue any longer.’”

Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman warned that Democrats may want to resist the urge to tie the health care plan to Mr. Trump, as Republicans did by taking the Affordable Care Act and dubbing it “Obamacare.”

“The irony is that Democrats’ temptation to refer to the GOP’s bill ‘Trumpcare’ may actually raise the popularity of the legislation,” Mr. Wasserman said. “Trump’s job approval, though low, is still almost double the public support for repealing and replacing some of the ACA’s most popular provisions.”

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