- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 28, 2023

President Biden revived the Obamacare wars on Tuesday, pointing to the law that Democrats muscled to passage in 2010 as a likely target for Republicans who want to rein in spending as part of tense debt-limit negotiations.

In a campaign-style speech, Mr. Biden said the GOP remains hellbent on destroying President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, a warning that has been politically advantageous for Democrats in recent election cycles.

The White House says more than 16 million people rely on private insurance from Obamacare’s web-based exchanges and that 22 million more Americans enrolled in Medicaid because the law expanded coverage in most states.

“The MAGA Republicans are a different breed of cat,” Mr. Biden said at the Kempsville Recreation Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “Folks in Congress, they want to eliminate a lot of health care coverage.”

GOP efforts to kill Obamacare ended in disaster in 2017, making “repeal and replace” a mantra that some Republicans would rather forget. It’s also unclear how bills that would devastate Obamacare would make it through the Democrat-led Senate and reach the president’s desk.

Even so, Mr. Biden put the issue front and center on Tuesday as he uses threats to health benefits as a political cudgel. The administration wants the House GOP majority to specify potential cuts as both sides wrangle over raising the federal government’s debt limit.

In some cases, Mr. Biden is filling in the blanks for Republicans, arguing that critical health programs will end up in the crosshairs.

“They want to do away with the Affordable Care Act. Some threaten default on the national debt unless I accept certain economic plans,” Mr. Biden said.

The White House pointed to a budget plan circulated by former President Donald Trump’s budget director, Russell Vought, that includes cuts to Medicaid and Obamacare. Media reports say House Republicans are warming to the plan and want to use it as a template for spending plans.

“That’s the plan, OK?” Mr. Biden said. “He wants to end Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and then [pass] additional deep cuts.”

Mr. Biden used his recent State of the Union address to accuse Republicans of eyeing cuts to Medicare and Social Security benefits, prompting an angry response from Republicans.

“They all stood up, and they’re all on camera,” Mr. Biden said, counting it as a negotiating victory.

Even before the address, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had said that Medicare and Social Security were not on the chopping block as part of debt negotiations.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also put distance between his caucus and the campaign-season proposal that Sen. Rick Scott, Florida Republican, put forward last year with a provision that would allow all federal programs to sunset after five years.

Democrats said the proposal would put entitlements at risk, prompting Mr. McConnell to describe it as a Scott plan instead of one for all Republicans.

On Obamacare, any Republican effort to replace the law has been on the shelf since 2018. Today, the GOP only controls the House, though it isn’t stopping Mr. Biden from warning of new repeal threats.

Mr. Biden, who is deciding whether to run again in 2024, warned Tuesday that more than 100 million people with pre-existing health conditions would lose the Obamacare protection that requires insurers to enroll them. He pointed to the potential loss of other Obamacare benefits, including fully covered preventive services such as cancer screenings, cholesterol tests, annual check-ups and contraception.

Republicans responded to Mr. Biden‘s speech by pointing to proposed Obamacare rules for the 2024 plan year that would tighten up coverage requirements, forcing some customers to switch plans if their existing coverage doesn’t pass muster.

“President Biden is fear-mongering about health insurance while he’s actively trying to kick 2.7 million Americans off their Obamacare plans — something that harkens back to the 2013 ‘Lie of the Year’: “If you like your plan, you can keep it,’” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairwoman Cathy Rodgers, Washington Republican, and key subcommittee chairmen said Tuesday.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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