As data continue to show the Affordable Care Act is making a difference in many Washingtonians’ lives, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers admitted the obvious over the weekend. The Spokane-area congresswoman said her party needs to do more than just pass bills to repeal “Obamacare.”
In McMorris Rodgers’ comments to a New York radio show Sunday, the fourth-ranking Republican in the House said: “We’ve got to write the specific replacement to the Affordable Care Act … We’ve talked about repealing Obamacare, we’ve taken votes, we’ve put the bill on the president’s desk to repeal Obamacare, but we’ve got to put forward, ‘What is the future of healthcare?’ ”
That’s mildly refreshing. But "repeal and replace" was the mantra coined by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, in March 2010, just after President Obama signed the ACA into law. So six years after Democrats in Congress passed the ACA, it’s time that critics closed their mouths or offered something better.
No doubt, the ACA got off to a clumsy, star-crossed start; federal and some state health exchanges ran into a snarl of technical problems, and even states with less troubled exchanges like Washington had glitches that persisted into 2015. In our state, payments and enrollment data failed to move from the exchange to insurers, leaving some consumers uncovered when they went to clinics, pharmacies and emergency rooms.
The state Office of the Insurance Commissioner cited new data recently that show Washington’s 1 million uninsured in 2012 had been reduced by half in 2015. Record numbers of people signed up last month to buy individual health plans in the private market using the online insurance exchange at Wahealthplanfinder.org.
Nationally, millions of Americans now have access to health care that they didn’t before; a large share of those are a result of expanded Medicaid, which covers the lowest-income people. Many Republican-controlled states (especially in the South) have refused to participate or even more would have access.
Yet six years after the law passed, Republicans who championed lawsuits to strike down the law never put anything realistic on the table. If we sound skeptical about that changing, it’s because we are.
McMorris Rodgers has thrown more rocks than solutions at the ACA, some of them backfiring. In early 2015, she put out a Facebook query asking constituents for their horror stories about the ACA, but many replies were instead testimonials about how well the law was working for them.
Still it may be progress that McMorris Rodgers wants to do more than pass bills that amount to arm-waving about a law that is helping millions of families.
If there are solutions that actually expand affordable care to more people and reduce costs without simply reducing care, we’d like to see them.