Obamacare’s open enrollment season has begun, and the news for consumers is not good. Premiums for 2017 are an average of 25 percent higher, insurers in many states have left the exchanges, and the six Obamacare co-ops still in existence continue to lose money.
President-elect Donald Trump named health care one of his top three priorities and has repeatedly called for repealing and replacing Obamacare. This will not be an easy task, and it must be undertaken carefully to allow for a smooth transition for consumers.
One of the tools available to us to repeal Obamacare is called reconciliation. Created by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the reconciliation process requires designated congressional committees to find a certain amount of savings within their jurisdictions by a specified date if mandated by the annual budget resolution. Once the committees submit their recommended spending cuts, the Budget Committee produces one reconciliation bill for a vote.
Only provisions which impact spending or revenue can be included in a reconciliation bill. Because many parts of Obamacare may not have a budgetary effect to qualify them for reconciliation, there are likely to be numerous provisions left intact which would have to be amended or repealed in a piecemeal manner outside this process.
In order to begin the reconciliation process, Congress must first pass a budget. We will have opportunities to pass budgets for Fiscal Years 2017 and 2018 in the new year, which also provide two avenues to pursue reconciliation.
A reconciliation bill has important advantages. It cannot be filibustered in the Senate and only needs 51 votes to pass rather than the usual 60. When Democrats forced Obamacare through Congress on a purely party-line vote, they did so by utilizing the reconciliation process. Considering Republicans may only have a 51-vote majority in the Senate next year, reconciliation presents one of the most effective avenues for repealing the law.
Earlier this year, Congress passed an Obamacare repeal bill using reconciliation and sent it to President Obama’s desk, where it was unsurprisingly vetoed. However, this process did show reconciliation works – and with a Republican president in the White House in 2017, we can anticipate a much different final result.
Though it is a promising option, reconciliation is not the only avenue for repealing Obamacare. We could also repeal pieces of the law until it is dismantled in an effort to minimize potential impacts on consumers transitioning out of the exchanges. Congress and the Trump administration will need to work closely together to determine the best path forward.
Many Americans are relieved by the prospect of finally repealing Obamacare, but it is crucial we also replace this failed law with new, patient-centered policy. This year, Republicans laid the groundwork by rolling out our proposed replacement for Obamacare called A Better Way.
Our plan eliminates more than $1 trillion in health care taxes and mandates. It provides more coverage options and restores Americans’ ability to make their own health care choices with their doctors. Consumers could even take their coverage with them rather than being tied to a job or state exchange to keep their insurance.
For too long, bureaucrats in Washington have dictated Americans’ health care options to them. By repealing and replacing Obamacare, we can lower costs and increase choices while empowering patients to make their own decisions about their care.