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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

GOP braces for static with health premiums due to rise

So far, the GOP-led Congress has failed to replace Obamacare with any kind of improved version.

President Donald Trump walks down the stairs of

President Donald Trump walks down the stairs of Air Force One during his arrival at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla., Thursday, April 19, 2018. Photo Credit: AP / Pablo Martinez Monsivais

After citing the hollow promise President Barack Obama once made that if you like your health insurance plan you can keep it, President Donald Trump piled up his own pledges.

No one will lose coverage, he said. Care will be “a lot less expensive” for everyone, he said. Everyone will have insurance available, he said.

So far, the GOP-led Congress has failed to replace Obamacare with any kind of improved version.

Collectively bewildered after years of complaints, the Senate and House majorities turned attention to changing the tax code. Little is seen so far in the way of insurance change except a chipping away at the current insurance system.

For purposes of next November’s midterm legislative elections, the relevant question is whether the status quo remains a hot-button issue for voters or gives way to other partisan fights.

Republicans can try selling the point that people with rising premiums should keep looking back to Obama for blame. Everyone gets a certain period to fault the folks they replaced.

Democrats can say, as they have already, that their opponents are quietly, unaccountably, making the current system worse for some people.

Only a year ago, for example, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found 24 million more people would be uninsured over a decade if a House bill then pending took effect. It did not.

Trump did sign tax legislation in December that ends the individual mandate for insurance starting next year.

Weeks later, the liberal-leaning Urban Institute released research showing that by 2019, the number of people without health insurance will rise by nearly 5 million.

Millions more will enroll in “short-term” plans that are cheap, but aren’t available to people with pre-existing conditions and do not cover, say, maternity care and drugs. The wider coverage will cost 18 percent more, the study projects.

Sweeping changes are unlikely this year, given the political calendar.

The national GOP is already preparing for the crossfire, with its officials telling the Axios website that the message could differ from one district to the next, depending on whether Obamacare is locally popular.

“If Obamacare is popular in your district, taking credit for repealing the mandate makes you vulnerable to Democrats’ message that you screwed up Obamacare,” a former GOP aide said.

Generally, Republican candidates are expected to recite the message that the government shouldn’t have tried to force people to buy insurance in the first instance and that poor people were mostly paying the mandate penalty.

Whether that line of argument succeeds is up to the voters.

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