After seven years, GOP still has no health-care plan

It’s amazing to watch Republicans in Washington try to claim that really, they really really do have a plan for how they’re going to replace Obamacare, but you see, the dog must have eaten it or the Russians must have stolen it or here’s a note explaining that they need to be excused from the assignment because their grandmother died and can they bring it in next year or maybe in 2018?

“Ummm, isn’t this the 50th time your grandmother died, son?”

“Well, uh, you see, we come from a large family.”

A long time ago, way back in the spring of 2010, I asked Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell how Republicans planned to replace Obamacare. Amazingly, he had no idea. Now, almost seven years later, he still has no idea.

Seven years. If you’re a party with even the slightest interest or competence in governance, if actually doing a good job for the American people means anything to you, how do you go seven years obsessively repeating the promise to replace Obamacare and do nothing of any substance in that time frame to actually keep that promise?

For much of those seven years, Republicans have had control of one or both houses of Congress. Yet I’m not aware of a single congressional hearing or vote on a single proposal to replace Obamacare. They used that time to do nothing.

Yes, I know: They’ll tell you they have plans. I have plans to write a Hollywood screenplay that will make me millions of dollars, but ask me to see that screenplay so you can judge whether it’s any good and you’ll get the same answer you get from Republicans when you ask them to read their replacement bill.

Their dilemma is simple: Obamacare provides health insurance to more than 20 million Americans who otherwise would have no coverage. Republicans need a plan that allows them to strip those 20 million of coverage without getting blamed for stripping those 20 million of coverage. And although they haven’t announced their strategy for doing that, my guess is that it involves panic, pain, desperation and chaos.

Look at their approach. They have already begun the process of repealing the mandates and taxes that make Obamacare financially viable, while claiming to keep those aspects that are politically popular. But everybody in the business — insurance companies, hospitals, health-care experts — warn that such an approach will produce a huge disruption in the health-care marketplace. According to one study by the nonpartisan Urban Institute, some 30 million Americans will lose their insurance, doubling the number of uninsured. Insurance companies will panic and leave, and with so many newly uninsured, hospitals and other care providers will see a four-fold increase in demand for uncompensated care with no revenue to pay for it.

Surely, Republicans want to avoid that calamity, right?

Some do, but Republican leadership, particularly in the House, appears to see that not as a disaster to be averted but as an opportunity to be created. They have hidebound conservatives within their own caucus who will try to gut any solution that violates their highly developed sense of free-market purity. They have Democrats unwilling to cooperate in any way with the dismantling of Obamacare. How can they possibly bring those groups to the table to negotiate, on purely Republican terms of course?

Crisis, panic and chaos, that’s how. Create a disaster and insist that others fix it for you. After seven years of whining and promising, that’s the best they can muster.