Speaker of the House Paul Ryan shares a laugh with Republican members of Congress after signing legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and to cut off federal funding of Planned Parenthood during an enrollment ceremony in the Rayburn Room at the U.S. Capitol January 7, 2016.
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Are Dems ‘open to replacing Obamacare’? Not exactly

The headline in a new Politico piece was bound to raise eyebrows: “Democrats open to replacing Obamacare.” Fascinating! Tell me more.

Apparently, a “surprising number” of Senate Democrats say “they’re open to helping Republicans” replace the Affordable Care Act “as long as the changes are more adjustment than overhaul.” This paragraph wasn’t intended as funny, but it literally had me chuckling:
[I]f the GOP comes up with a proposal to fix the flaws with the current law – such as faltering insurance exchanges and fast-rising premiums – while maintaining subsidies and coverage for low-income Americans? Well, in that case, some Democrats will be hard-pressed to stay on the sidelines.
Well, yes, I suppose they will. If Republicans, after seven years of effort, somehow craft a health-care package that improves exchange marketplaces, curbs premium increases, maintains subsidies for working families, and protects Americans’ coverage plans, then Democrats won’t have any reason to “stay on the sidelines.”

In fact, President Obama would probably endorse that legislation personally. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer would be happy to hand deliver such a bill to the Oval Office for Donald Trump’s signature.

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) told Politico, in reference to Republicans, “If they want to change things around the edges, fix some of the things we agree ought to be fixed and call it Trumpcare, that’s OK. Let’s get people covered.”

The point, of course, is that GOP officials aren’t going to do any of this, and they apparently have no intention of trying. Democrats may be “open” to sensible Republican reforms, but – and this is the important part – there are no sensible Republican reforms on the table that Dems can tolerate.

Instead, GOP lawmakers are offering a reckless “repeal and delay” scheme that HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell accurately described yesterday as an invitation to systemic “chaos.”

If the broader point is that some congressional Dems, especially those worried about re-election, are open to ACA improvements, that’s clearly true. But let’s not pretend many Democrats are ready to give Republicans a filibuster-proof majority on repealing one of the party’s most important achievements, replacing it with a poor alternative that leaves millions of Americans behind. That’s not going to happen.

Postscript: The rhetorical shift on health care among congressional Republicans is also worth keeping an eye on. After years in which GOP lawmakers said the scope of “Obamacare” is a national scourge that’s tearing at the very fabric of American society, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) recently told reporters that repealing the reform law affects “a relatively small number of people.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) added, “We have an Obamacare emergency in a relatively small part of the insurance market.”

It’s an angle to keep an eye on.