This month House Speaker Paul Ryan unveiled the highly anticipated Republican alternative to Obamacare: The American Health Care Act.
Many were shocked to find that this bill was not the free market solution to health care that we all hoped it would be. For starters, it is not the full repeal we were promised, keeping some of the core pillars of Obamacare, and it does not contain some of the most basic tenants of Republican health care reform, like the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines and tort reform.
While many in the Republican Party were quick to condemn this supposed “betrayal” by Ryan, the reality is that this bill might be the best we can do (for now). What’s to blame for this disappointing legislation? Congressional procedure.
This is a reconciliation bill, not a normal piece of legislation. The rules surrounding a reconciliation bill dictate that the bill must only deal directly with the budget. This form of bill is also immune to filibuster in the Senate. Due to this procedure, Ryan’s hands are tied with the AHCA, and critics of Obamacare hoping for a full repeal and replacement must be more understanding of these restraints.
If the speaker tried to include some of the aforementioned reforms or attempted a full repeal, the bill would be ruled out of order with the rules of reconciliation in the Senate, and face a filibuster by Senate Democrats.
With the Republicans not having the 60 votes required to end a filibuster, any bill featuring these reforms or a repeal would die in the Senate. To be fair to some critics, Ryan, who has generally shown an impressive ability to communicate our party’s policies and legislative agenda, failed to explain these procedures and how they effected the bill to the American public. As a Republican, I am just as upset with the bill and its constraints as everyone else, but we must face the unfortunate reality of congressional procedure.
So, how do we achieve the health care reforms we were promised? First, recognize that the AHCA is not perfect, and that there are changes within the rules of reconciliation that must be made before passage. Second, we owe Congress and the White House the benefit of the doubt on this issue. Finally, to further dismantle the regulatory and bureaucratic mess Obamacare created, and implement other free market health care reforms, we must turn out the vote in 2018.
Michael Banerian, youth vice chairman
Michigan Republican Party