One month ago, President Donald Trump gathered Republican House members at the Rose Garden to exalt a health care bill they’d just approved.
In retrospect, the backslapping celebration looks even less fitting than it did at the time.
“What we have is something very, very incredibly well-crafted,” Trump asserted on May 4. “Make no mistake about it . . . premiums will be coming down, yes, deductibles will be coming down, and ultimately this is a great plan.
“I feel so confident,” he added. “It’s going to be an unbelievable victory.”
This week, the GOP-controlled Senate returns from recess. And a measure that would repeal and replace Obamacare remains nowhere in sight in the upper house.
“I don’t see a comprehensive health care plan this year,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told a local news station last week.
After the House voted 217-213 for the bill, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that by 2026, the legislation would mean 23 million fewer Americans were insured.
It would also reduce the deficit by $119 billion, the CBO said. But it could hike average premium prices of individual health plans by about 20 percent in 2018 compared to the current law.
Not that the Senate was ready any earlier to enact the House bill. But Trump’s weak approval rating and the high-profile appearance of ex-FBI Director James Comey before the Intelligence Committee don’t help the cause, either.
Trump and other Republicans have said that without a repeal and replacement bill, the system set up under the 2009 health care law will fall apart on its own.
Indeed, there are signs of trouble, with some insurance companies such as Aetna withdrawing from so-called Obamacare exchanges.
But Democrats warn that Trump’s nonsupport for Obamacare could be a “self-fulfilling prophecy” that erodes the program.
Republican governors are as divided as lawmakers are. Some come from states that chose to expand their use of the Medicaid program under the previous administration, and who therefore may face budget problems under the House bill, which slashes nearly $900 billion from Medicaid.
The celebrating is over, but health care remains complicated.