A big part of the success Democrats had in retaking control of the House in the past election was based on their position on healthcare. Protecting people with pre-existing medical conditions became their rally cry and it paid off, politically. The question remains, can they turn a successful election strategy into legislative reality?
The Fight Begins
The first shot was fired last week as Democrats voted to allow the House the power to interpose itself in the matter after a federal judge ruled that Obamacare, officially known as the Affordable Care Act, was unconstitutional. The measure passed almost completely along party lines, with all Democrats supporting and only three Republicans breaking ranks.
With the Senate and White House still under Republican control, the measure has little chance of actually becoming law. However, the vote does put Republicans’ support of the judge’s ruling, and by association their stand on the ACA and pre-existing conditions, on record. If nothing else, Democrats are positioning themselves to continue using this against Republicans during the 2020 campaigns. To highlight his party’s position, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) said, “There’s no arguing with the following statistic, that today, between 17 million and 20 million Americans have health insurance that didn’t have it before the Affordable Care Act.”
Universal healthcare coverage, including for those with pre-existing conditions, has become a popular talking point among far-left politicians. Republicans are feeling the pressure to produce an alternative to the ACA that they have opposed from the outset. As of yet, they have been unable to reach a consensus among themselves.
Conservative lawmakers were quick to assure voters that any alternative would provide coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. “Democrats are trying to sell this farce as a vote to protect people with pre-existing conditions, but this is not a health care vote,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). “This is a vote to give cover because the law they passed was unconstitutional, and the individual mandate was deeply unpopular. They could put an end to this by passing a law that abides by the Constitution, but they are not willing to do that.”
Where We Go From Here
With Democrats in control of the House, the judge’s ruling on Obamacare under appeal and healthcare insurers enjoying good financial times, 2019 should see the ACA have a relatively quiet year. Said Centene chairman and CEO Michael Neidorff at the health insurer’s annual investor day, “I think it’s generally recognized that the bifurcation of the Congress creates stability and I think I personally favor that because you get more cooperation over time because you have to get things done.”
The federal judge in Texas who ruled Obamacare unconstitutional let the law remain in force while his controversial judgment heads to the appeal process. Judge Reed O’Connor’s ruling on the ACA seems unlikely to survive according to most experts. For the foreseeable future, health benefits will remain unchanged for 20 million Americans who have coverage under the ACA. Looking farther ahead is less clear, as both parties are sure to continue sparring over healthcare heading into the 2020 election.