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Editorial

News Opinion Editorial

Obamacare: GOP moves to repeal, and then what?

Next time the more bombastic in Washington rail against government waste, let them include every cent lost to Wednesday's dog and pony show in the House of Representatives, where time that might have been used constructively was frittered away with yet another attack on health care reform.

For those who might have accidentally tuned into C-Span shortly before 1:30 p.m., that was not a repeat but an actual live telecast. For the 33rd time since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, the House held a vote to repeal part or all of it.

Thirty-three times! One might assume the American public had gotten the message that House Republicans opposed the measure after one or two votes against it. OK, maybe after a dozen. But this was firmly in farcical territory, akin to the guy who likes to hit himself in the head with a hammer because it feels so good when he stops.

Here's the only way in which the House vote represented something new (and it's not really much new at that): the GOP is no longer even bothering to promote the idea that they plan to replace what they deride as "Obamacare" with something else. They just want to kill it.

Apparently, the consequences of a repeal for the millions of uninsured or those with pre-existing conditions or young people needing to stay on a parent's policy — or any of the other popular reforms included in the law — is no longer important to the empathy-free GOP.

Let's dispense with any notion that the vote was meaningful from a policy standpoint despite the Supreme Court's recent decision upholding the law. Any repeal is dead on arrival in the Democratically-controlled Senate, and even if by some miracle (and it would take a big one) it won a filibuster-proof majority, President Barack Obama would veto it. So the repeal is not just dead, as they like to say in Annapolis, it's dead-dead, as it was the last 32 times it was attempted.

But in GOP-dominated states, complaining about the ACA is practically a requirement of running for public office, and the louder, the better. Never mind that this idea of preserving and expanding on employer-sponsored health insurance originated with Republicans or that the Affordable Care Act was based largely on Mitt Romney's own health care reforms in Massachusetts.

It was also somewhat doubtful that Republicans ever wanted to do something serious about replacing the ACA or insuring the tens of millions of Americans who currently lack coverage because they either can't afford it or can't qualify for it. Even in past attempts at repeal, the so-called "replacement" initiatives were sketchy at best.

Whatever one might think of tort reform, for instance, limiting damages in malpractice lawsuits isn't going to suddenly make health insurance affordable. Same with expanded health care savings accounts or deregulating insurance companies or many of the other ideas conservatives like to kick around from time to time.

The real reason Republicans dropped all efforts to replace Obamacare with their own ideas is that they know such proposals wouldn't bear up to close scrutiny by independent analysts. Their choice was to either keep the proposals so vague as to be difficult to measure or drop them entirely. This time, the latter course must have simply seemed easier.

In the end, the vote afforded nothing more than an opportunity for some to posture and preen and spread more misinformation about health care reform. For all the talk about how the upcoming election is a referendum on the current state of the economy, the GOP leadership certainly spends a lot of time on a 2-year-old health care measure.

In reality, repealing the ACA won't create a single job, it will only mean denying health insurance to millions and forcing the resulting high cost of emergency care provided to those unfortunates on the rest of us in the form of higher insurance premiums.

Even those who are skeptical about health care reform have got to be scratching their heads over why the House must waste its time on such nonsense when there are real and serious challenges facing the country, including a "fiscal cliff" at year's end. Not wasting it for the first time, incidentally, but for the 33rd in 18 months.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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