The GOP Effort to Repeal and Replace Obamacare Isn't Going Very Well

New polls show the health law's popularity rising as Republicans struggle to come up with a plan.


LOL, y'all, LOL

Republicans have finally figured out how to do something that President Obama never managed: make Obamacare more popular. The trick, it seems, is threatening to repeal it.

Throughout Obama's presidency, the health law struggled in the court of public opinion, with nearly every poll showing that more people opposed the law than supported it. Now several recent polls show the law rising in popularity as Republicans begin the process of unwinding it.

Approval ratings for the health law rose from 41 percent at the beginning of the year to 47 percent at the end of January, according to a Morning Consult poll released this morning. That tracks with an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released earlier this month, which found that 45 percent of the public thinks that the law is a good idea, while just 41 percent think it is a bad idea. Similarly, a Fox News poll taken this month found that 50 percent of the public views the law favorably, while 46 percent view it unfavorably.

These numbers are relatively close, and they do not indicate that the law has suddenly become wildly popular. But they do suggest that the public is shifting its opinion about the law as the GOP repeal effort is getting underway.

The reason, I suspect, is that Republicans have never sold a clear and distinct vision of what the nation's health care system should look like. And now that the GOP is in a position to repeal the law, poll respondents are not treating the question as whether they like or dislike Obamacare in the abstract, but whether they prefer it to the likely alternative—an alternative that Republicans have largely declined to present.

The problem for Republicans is that they do not have any consensus about what that alternative is. While some GOP legislators, like Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, have proposed replacement plans in vary degrees of specificity, the party as a whole has never united around a replacement framework, much less specific legislation. And it has never made an extended argument in favor of a clearly defined alternative. So far, then, the effort to repeal and replace the law has mostly demonstrated how hard the task will be, and how unprepared congressional Republicans are to make good on a promise they have been making for six years.

Already, the party has blown its own project deadlines. Eliminating the law and setting up a different system was supposed to be the Republican majority's top legislative priority for 2017, but that effort has already slowed to a crawl. And so a budget resolution passed by both the House and the Senate at the beginning of the month set January 27th as the date by which key committees were supposed to have finished drawing up replacement legislation. This committee level work is a necessary first step towards repeal and replace. It must happen before any health care legislation can become law. But not only is this work not complete, it has yet to even begin. Republicans, in other words, have not even managed to take a basic first step in drawing up legislative plans.

In private, Republican legislators seem totally confused about the direction of the repeal effort. At a retreat for GOP lawmakers last week, party leadership laid out a timeline for repeal, but provided no specifics about what the legislation would look like. One GOP lawmaker attending a session that was supposed to lay out the repeal plan told The Washington Post's Mike DeBonis, "There have been zero specific offered and it is fascinating to see the lack of clarity on this issue." The Post also obtained audio of a meeting in which Republican legislators discussed replacement options, but came to no consensus, and worried about the policy and political consequences of any replacement plan.

The disarray surrounding the replacement effort has already led some conservative pundits to call for the GOP to punt on repeal. As if on cue, two Republican senators recently introduced a replacement that would allow states to opt in or out of its major components at nearly the same funding levels as exist now. It is not a plan to replace Obamacare so much as a way of guaranteeing that the law would remain in effect in large parts of the country forever, with generous federal support. It is practically the definition of a punt.

Republicans are preparing to punt because they do not have a plan they can all get behind. And the reason they do not have a plan now is because they did not make the effort to craft a plan during the years in which they were promising to repeal Obamacare and install a replacement.

Doing so would no doubt have been difficult, because it would have required Republicans to debate the merits of various alternative policy mechanisms, to accept the tradeoffs that come with any policy overhaul, and then to make the case to the public that their vision was preferable to Obamacare's. Republicans never developed their own unified vision, and so had nothing to sell to the public when given the opportunity to mind the store. That lack of preparation is why the effort to repeal and replace the law is now stalling.

Health policy is by nature politically treacherous, and it requires a willingness to engage in complex policy planning. Democrats spent nearly two decades developing the policy framework that led to Obamacare, and even that didn't generate widespread support. But the general consensus amongst Democratic politicians meant that the party had something to work with when the opportunity arose.

The polling from the Obama administration provides clear evidence that the public does not particularly care for Obamacare. But now that the public is being asked to choose between Obamacare and some mysterious alternative that even Republicans themselves cannot describe with real clarity, public opinion on the health law is turning around. (Indeed, it is a testament to the law's considerable weaknesses that so much of the public remains opposed to it even without any alternative at the ready.) It is possible that, given an opportunity, the public might have rallied around an alternative. But Republicans, who have been unable to rally around any plan themselves, gave them nothing to get behind.

The entire episode is a lesson for both parties about ignoring the complexities of legislative detail in favor of easy campaign rhetoric. For too long, Republicans treated the repeal and replacement of Obamacare as an empty political slogan rather than as a substantive policy goal. That can sometimes be an effective tactic in the short term. But in the long run, as Republicans are learning, it only sets you up for both policy and political failure.

NEXT: NYPD is Developing an Algorithm to Measure Police-Community Relations

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I think the geniuses in Congress are just about ready to step in and save ObamaCare.

    I wonder if Trump will sign, or veto, the Save ObamaCare Act.

    1. “…according to a Morning Consult poll released this morning. That tracks with an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released earlier this month.”

      If the Republicans believe anything coming from these media outlets, then they deserve to get elected out of office.

      We know Peter believes the polls because that is the crux of his propaganda- don’t repeal ObamaCare because its popular now. Repeal and replace over and over until Americans expect something to replace ObamaCare.

      Flush that Obamaturd down the toilet!

    2. Republicans on O’care repeal and replace: Nevermind.

  2. How is it that the plan can become more popular when the unpopular plan is advertised as in the process of being replaced? Fear and loathing? WTF?

    1. People fear change.

    2. Crooked polls.

      1. we have a winner. I would be nice if Sudderman would do some leg work on these polls rather than just repeating them as fact.

        1. Similarly, a Fox News poll taken this month found that 50 percent of the public views the law favorably, while 46 percent view it unfavorably.

          Ah, yes, Fox News, well known for its strident pro-Obamacare reporting!

          1. FOX is pro-big government RINOs. So yeah, biased polls.

            I have never been asked any polling questions. Nobody that I know has been polled. Must just be the randomness?

      2. Or the polls could be legit and it might be the 6 months of unrelenting fear mongering by the entire news media, including Reason and St. Rand Paul, that repeal of the law means everyone in America will lose their insurance.

        1. Only those with photogenic children will lose their insurance. You ugly bastards are safe.

    3. It makes sense to me, It’s not like Republicans have a great track record of successful big government programs. And all I have heard this far is, basically a Republican version of what we already have.

  3. I’ve heard several Republicans with good ideas but they never seem to get turned into legislation. Not sure if they aren’t getting it written or if Ryan, McConnell and company are blocking them.

    1. I go with establishment being establishment? So same old…same old FYTW

  4. The damn thing just needs to die already and I don’t care what it takes to do it. The law was very unpopular when the Democrats passed it. Just kill it, now.

    1. “We need to kill it to see what’s not in it.”

  5. Doctor: You have an inoperable tumor.
    Patient: Isn’t there anything you can do?
    Doctor: No, because we can’t take it out cleanly. You’ll die if we remove it.
    Patient: I like living. I guess I’ll just have to deal with the effects of the tumor.


    1. In this case, of course, the tumor has a throbbing blue vein feeding it directly and will filibuster any attempt to remove it.

    2. Doctor: You have an tumor. We tried to fix it, but in the process left a medical tool in there Patient: Isn’t there anything you can do? They hurt like a bastard
      Doctor: No, because we can’t take it out cleanly. You’ll die if we remove it.
      Patient: I like living. I guess I’ll just have to deal with the effects of your fuck-up.



  6. Wait, having a general idea of how you’re actually going to implement campaign promises/policy goals is a thing? I thought the whole point was “Pissing off snowflakes” + ??? = Profit/Conservatopia. I’m sure winging it is the best way to go about it.

  7. Why not politically just get rid of bunch of the regulations and the individual and business mandates. It isn’t like they arent going to just print/borrow money anyway.

  8. So, they were supposed to enact the legislation within 5 days of the new administration taking office?

    I hope they’ll repeal it, and I won’t hesitate to give them grief if they haven’t passed some significant changes in the next year, but 5 days isn’t all that long. It took Team Blue 2 years to draft the damn thing and they knew going into the 2008 primaries they’d likely control Congress and the White House in the election.

    1. The Repubs botched it. The repeal-with-a-delayed-effective-date was the only way this was going to happen. But the Repubs fell for the Suderman ploy – you can’t repeal unless you simultaneously replace. And, as predicted, the replacement is bogged down.

      Which would be fine, if the repeal was already on the books and they had a couple years to get the replacement done.

      1. I’m worried that with a repeal-with-delay they will never get around to actually repealing it. I’d much rather they spent a couple months getting the whole package together and ramming it through at once while there is still some momentum.

        1. The repeal with a delay would be an actual repeal, as in, “OCare is hereby repealed in its entirety effective January 1, 2019.”

      2. We have to repeal it so we can find out what’s in it.

    2. So, they were supposed to enact the legislation within 5 days of the new administration taking office?

      The 115th Congress took their seats on January 3. They’ve been in there for almost a month now.

      That having been said, a lot of this is just push-polling. If the Congress comes up with something halfway coherent and they work with the President to sell it down the road, the polls today won’t mean jack shit.

  9. A huge swath of America is represented by Republicans because of hatred of that law. How about that for a poll?

    1. We meant Hillary. But our ballots were too confusing.


  10. Why does it require a replacement? Annul the provisions of the original legislation in their entirety, without any exceptions whatsoever, and be done with it.

    1. It should not be replaced, only repealed. The replacement if it does happen should just be a trick to placate the unwashed masses by sticking something in there that is really not a replacement, but just a removal of government barriers preventing healthcare prices from falling through innovation and technology.

      1. Nullify the legislation, and wholly deregulate the industry. Nothing need be enacted in its place.

        1. Exactly this. What we need to do is kick the FDA and AMA in the nut sack good and hard and deregulate the hell out of the medical industry.

          It’s hard for me to believe that the GOP is just going to do nothing. They know that the ACA is a big part of the reason why they are in such a position that they are in now. Trump also appointed that doctor to head up healthcare and there’s been too much talk going on. They’re going to do something, it’s just that right now it’s very early on and there are other things on the agenda. It’s not like this is the only thing to do and it’s crazy that they’re somehow supposed to do all of this in a week. The other things Trump has done are EOs. This cannot be wholly done through EOs, it requires Congress. They’ll get it done.

        2. wholly deregulate the industry

          would require a whole lot enacted in its place. It’s not like our healthcare system was some free market paradise before Obamacare.

          1. I was referring specifically to replacing ObamaCare with any sort of governmentally structured, artificial market, which is exactly what we mustn’t do. Legislating the repeal of prior regulations is obviously the right course.

    2. They can’t. They can excise all the appropriations part of the bill through reconciliation, leaving a bunch of horseshit regulations in place. Since the Democrats are just going to filibuster anything they can out of spite, even if it hurts their constituents, some kind of compromise must be made. In other words, they love their tumor and they’ll clutch a lot of it close while parts of it are removed.

      1. Eliminate the filibuster with a simple majority. Ram thru a repeal, nominate SCOTUS justice plus any other government shrinking legislation. Then re-institute the filibuster.

    3. 8 years ago I was in a fantastic HMO. I’d be thrilled to get something like that back when the dust settles.

      1. A repeal won’t do that: once you destroy part of a market, it doesn’t just spring back into existence. Investors don’t invest billions to create companies that can be destroyed by a change in administration overnight.

        They need to repeal a lot more pre ACA laws just to get back to where we were, and even then, it will take years to recover.

    4. Because they realize there are literally millions of people in Republican states who are going to find out they no longer have health care. And might just remember who took it away from them next fall.

    1. Article title – “Imperial President Trump recklessly attacks regulations.”

      1. I’d like to recklessly attack regulations with a woodchipper and chainsaw. Maybe a nuke or two to finish the job.

        1. A few Tzar bombas should work a charm.

      2. The watermelons will come out about how the environment will get destroyed. The socialists will come out that fat cats will get richer and the poor poorer. Feminists will still claim that this is a gift to mostly male executives. POCs will claim it’s a racist policy to keep them from ever moving up.

        In other words: a bunch of pinkos will be mad because they hate commerce.

        1. That’s why I’m buying several massive jugs tonight — I want to be able to collect the totalitarians’ tear as they cascade down their faces and store them for sustenance.

        2. Spoken like a true representative of people who have never put toxic waste into a river on behalf of a giant corporation. Guess what? I have. They do.




    3. I just felt the Libertarian Moment in my pants

      1. Alternate comment: clean up on aisle “my pants”

  11. Has Suderman written The Libertarian Case for Single Payer Healthcare>/i> yet?

    We all know the article is coming.

    1. He’s had it written up since 2009. He’s just waiting for the right time.

  12. 2017 is the year when the penaltax is really going to sting some people if it doesn’t get repealed. Also prices will rise even more. No one is benefiting from this shit pile except for some cronies.

    1. I am probably mistaking, but I thought Trumpkin already directed the IRS to NOT collect the penaltax. Maybe just wishful thinking.

      1. EO issued to IRS to not punish anyone for failing to buy Obamacare insurance.

  13. RE: The GOP Effort to Repeal and Replace Obamacare Isn’t Going Very Well
    New polls show the health law’s popularity rising as Republicans struggle to come up with a plan.

    1. I wonder how many people who approve of Obozocare have it and like it.
    2. The GOP plan for government healthcare should be very simple. A. Repeal Obozocare and all other government run healthcare plans, and B. de-regulate the healthcare industry so they can compete across state lines.
    3. You can bet your butt the GOP will come up with neither solution because they’re just a big a socialist party as the democrats.

    1. People on ACA don’t seem to like it…


  14. For too long, Republicans treated the repeal and replacement of Obamacare everything they’ve ever said about smaller government as an empty political slogan rather than as a substantive policy goal.

    Which is how we got Trump.

    1. Well and now they are on the spot

  15. Is that because of the fuckheads who thought Obamacare was something different than the ACA, and are now realizing they’re the same fucking thing?

    1. OHHHHHHHHHH, I was against Obamacare, but I am for affordable care!

  16. Who gives a flying fuck about polls? How’d they work out last year?

  17. What struggle? Rand Paul already came up with a plan. Use that one.

    1. I was wondering why that wasn’t being mentioned.

      1. Because Suderman is a Progressive?

        1. It was mentioned.

          “While some GOP legislators, like Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, have proposed replacement plans in vary degrees of specificity…”

    2. It has to make it through committee first, at least.

    3. Rand Paul 2024

    4. This.

    5. Paul came up with one, but, AFAIA, no other Republican member of Congress has said they agree with his plan, so it would appear the struggle continues.

      1. McConnell and Ryan, supposedly.

    6. The are about a dozen Republican plans. Suderman is misinformed or being dishonest.

      1. He is correct in that they still need to unify around a single plan. They have many different plans, but they need to sit down and hash one out they can all support and sell to the people.

        1. Why not just keep things the same and rename O’care into Trumpcare. Then POTUS can talk about how it is the most fantastic health care plan ever and that even God could not do it better. All the people who voted for him will agree, and we can move on.

    1. So is the current market in a death spiral?

      According to Michael Tanner, Cato Institute senior fellow, that answer is yes.

      “Enrollment is down, premiums are up, and companies are leaving the market,” Tanner tells FOXBusiness.com. “Certainly, we don’t know what the endgame is, but the symptoms of the death spiral are beginning to show themselves.”


  18. Anyone interested in various models for our nation’s health care system should read
    (1) the book
    “The healing of America : a global quest for better, cheaper, and fairer health care” by T.R. Reid
    (can be looked up at Amazon.com)
    (2) the article “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us” from the Feb 23 2013 Time magazine (can be found by searching for the title)

  19. Jeezus, its been less than 2 weeks. Get back to us two months from now….

  20. The big problem for everyone who depends on this program is that it will die if no one does anything. There’s that big court case on mandates; that alone can kill it.

    Without a replacement- and there’s zero chance of one-, Obamacare will come to a grinding halt. That’s the likely future.

  21. TThe real costs of socializing healthcare (medicines not getting invented, people dying who maybe didn’t have to die) are almost entirely unseen. Ocare not being more popular is totally a testament to government’s ability to ruin anything it touches.

  22. That’s easy to fix: just pass on the actual costs of the law to consumers in terms of increased premiums and risks to insurance companies (=leaving the market place) and voters will revolt. Voters only are tepidly positive because the law is subsidized and artificially propped up.

    1. Absolutely, from inception the one thing this law can’t tolerate is transparency.

  23. I always expected the majority of Republicans were gutless. ACA was a bad law but it created government dependents and they don’t know what to do with them. Are they hoping Trump’s executive order undermining the mandate will be enough to kill it off?
    What is so hard about ending a law that Bill Clinton called ridiculous? A law that mandates most people buying more insurance than they want or need. A law admittedly sold on a pack of lies.
    There is a swamp that still needs to be drained and this last election did nothing to change that.

  24. Trump has said several times that he already has a plan to replace O’care. It’s simpler, cheaper, better health care and covers more people. In fact, he can probably fit it into a few tweets. The only problem is, like his simple plan to defeat ISIS, he doesn’t want to let the enemy know. I wonder who he thinks the enemy is?

  25. I just glanced at the Reason Foundation’s recent IRS Form 990 (its tax return) and see $199,035 on line 9 of the “functional expenses” section – and line 9 is for “other employee benefits”. Looking at the IRS instructions for form 990, this almost certainly is for employee health insurance. If that is the case, then the writers at Reason – if they’re enjoying the benefits of employer-provided health insurance, are hypocrites. The free market falls short when it comes to health insurance – as I suspect few at Reason will admit.

  26. upto I looked at the paycheck saying $9861 , I accept that my father in law was like they say trully bringing in money in their spare time online. . there best friend haz done this less than 8 months and a short time ago repayed the dept on there appartment and bourt a great Citro?n 2CV . see at this site
    ============> http://www.moneytime10.com

  27. I think the geniuses in Congress are just about ready to step in and save ObamaCare.

  28. My last month paycheck was for 11000 dollars… All i did was simple online work from comfort at home for 3-4 hours/day that I got from this agency I discovered over the internet and they paid me for it 95 bucks every hour… This is what I do

    =========================== http://www.4dayjobs.com

  29. Anecdotally, my friends here in the very “blue” world of Santa Fe, NM do indeed like the ACA. They acknowledge that it sucks, is a rotten way to treat too many of us, but think that we all must share. . . Just like the ACA tax claims. What is it,” shared revenue theft, or some such crap.
    So a poll of total ignoramouses is what we shall be governed by. Great. Mostly they just want a single payer failure of a system and claim that I can buy private insurance ifI want. Now anything I buy must comply with ass bending rules of the ACA just to cover those who need subsidies. Maybe Milton Friedman had it right. Give them all a check each year and be done with caring for their each and every need each and every day.
    There is no “right” to healthcare or health insurance. End of subject ( except for the emotionally crippled, of course)

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.