At noon today, Eastern Daylight Time, the 115th Congress will be sworn into office. With elections and vacations over, it is time for Washington, DC to get back to work. There are some new faces in both the House and Senate. Many items are on the agenda for the 115th Congress, including the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. President-Elect Donald J. Trump ran on the promise of getting rid of Obamacare and replacing it with something better. Presumably a free-market solution. But Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi are not happy about this. The Democrats are expected to resist efforts by Republicans to make good on their campaign promises. Will the GOP avoid the pitfalls by lobbyists and others to deliver the goods?
A new poll shows that the majority of American people want Obamacare gone. In fact, they want it gone even before a replacement program is worked out. Some are willing to wait a year or more for a replacement. Trump promised a replacement immediately after Obamacare is repealed. His pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, has been working on alternatives to the ACA even before it was passed by Democrats in 2010. Unlike Nancy Pelosi, Price did not wait to read the bill until after it was voted on.
The general outline for the GOP alternative to Obamacare is as follows. There will be no mandatory requirement, forcing people to be insured. This is, perhaps, the most unAmerican and unacceptable aspect of Obamacare. Therefore, it must go! Secondly, Price wants to open up health insurance to the free market by doing away with state restrictions. In some states, only one or two providers are allowed for under their own laws, giving those companies virtual monopolies. Doing away with state restrictions will be a hard nut to crack by the Congress. It could take a year or more to get state governments on board for opening their insurance markets to a nationwide market. But, once done, the laws of competition take over and the prospects are good for insurance policies which will be better and cheaper than any offered today.
Team Trump is willing to hang unto a few ideas from the ACA. Allowing policies to be ′movable′ across state lines would be another benefit of creating a national market. This would copy the Obamacare rule allowing policies to go with a holder when they change jobs, since the individual would enroll for the policy of their choice. Trump is also willing to keep younger adults, 18 to 26, to be under their parents insurance programs.
Another major issue before the 115th Congress will be the new budget and tax reforms proposed by Trump. Mind you, the Senate will be rather preoccupied for the first few months approving cabinet officials, and a new Supreme Court justice. All the while, the House will be working on Obamacare and economic matters, preparing bills to put to the Senate. The dismantling of the Obama legacy agenda will take center stage during the beginning on this session. Trump will be able to do many things by reversing Obama′s executive orders, but Congress will have to act on the rest.
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