GOP can't keep its story straight on taking people's insurance away

Image: Paul Ryan
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. uses charts and graphs to make his case for the GOP's long-awaited plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act,...
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) talked to conservative host Hugh Hewitt on Friday about the Republicans' health care plan, and the GOP leader conceded that his party is "never going to win a coverage beauty contest" with Democrats. He added that Republicans' goal is "not to win some coverage beauty contest."It was a curious choice of words. We are, after all, talking about American families having health security, not some meaningless pageant. What's more, the GOP congressman seemed to be implicitly conceding that his derided plan will be inferior to the Affordable Care Act when it comes to the most basic goal of health reform: ensuring that Americans have coverage.And that's ultimately where Republicans are likely to run into the most trouble. Love "Obamacare" or hate it, the ACA has succeeded in its principal goal: bringing consumers health insurance. It's not an accident that the nation's uninsured rate is now the lowest it's ever been. The Republican plan, meanwhile, is projected to take coverage away from between 6 million and 15 million Americans. The Congressional Budget Office's tally will shed additional light on the subject, and it may come as early as today.What do GOP officials have to say about this? As the Huffington Post noted, that depends a great deal on whom you ask.

Republicans can't seem to figure out if their health care plan will lead to the same number of people with health insurance as have it today, or more people, or less people, or if it doesn't matter.

We can break the factions down into odd, contradictory factions:How many Americans will lose their health coverage under the Republican plan? It doesn't matter! Gary Cohn, the chief White House economics advisor, said yesterday, "The numbers of who's covered and who is not covered, that's interesting, and I know that may make some headlines, but what we care about is people's ability to get health care." How people are supposed to "get health care" without coverage is unclear.How many Americans will lose their health coverage under the Republican plan? Who knows? Paul Ryan was asked the question yesterday and said, "I can't answer that question. It's up to people." Under the Speaker's vision, people who want coverage should just buy it. If they can't afford it, then we're apparently supposed to believe it's just the free market working its will.How many Americans will lose their health coverage under the Republican plan? The question has it backwards! HHS Secretary Tom Price appeared on "Meet the Press" yesterday and told NBC News' Chuck Todd, "We believe, I believe and the president believes firmly that if you create a system that's accessible for everybody and you provide the financial feasibility for everybody to get coverage, that we have a great opportunity to increase coverage over where we are right now." Price, apparently living in fantasy land, added, "I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially" as a result of the Republican plan.How many Americans will lose their health coverage under the Republican plan? Probably some! Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) was asked on Friday about millions of Americans losing their health insurance as a result of the GOP plan. "There is that possibility," King said.How many Americans will lose their health coverage under the Republican plan? None! Paul Ryan's official Q&A on his health plan asks, "Won't millions of Americans lose their health insurance because of your plan?" Ryan then answers his own question, "No." Trump himself promised the nation as a candidate, "I am going to take care of everybody. I don't care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody's going to be taken care of much better than they're taken care of now." After the election, the Republican president vowed, "We're going to have insurance for everybody.... Everybody's going to be taken care of."So, taken together, we see Republicans moving forward on a ridiculous health care plan despite intra-party divisions on the most basic of questions.A fine-tuned machine, this isn't.