The Obama health law encountered yet another setback on Tuesday, as Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield announced it would stop offering health policies in Ohio’s insurance marketplace, as officials said the move was in response to the political and economic uncertainty surrounding efforts in Congress to overhaul Obamacare.
“That means 20 counties in the state of Ohio will have no health care plan,” said President Donald Trump at the White House, as Republicans seized on the news to again say it’s time for major changes in the current health system.
“Obamacare House of Cards,” bellowed an email from a top aide in the office of Speaker Paul Ryan, as GOP lawmakers said it showed the need for something new, while Democrats accused the White House of doing all it could to undermine the health law.
“There is all this uncertainty around the Affordable Care Act repeal,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who laid the blame squarely on the GOP.
“The reason they pulled out is because of this uncertainty – they don’t know what insurance markets are going to look like six months from now, because Congress and the President haven’t done their jobs,” Brown told me.
Just downstairs from our interview in the Capitol, GOP Senators were huddled behind closed doors, still trying to figure out how to cobble together a bill – a process likened by one Republican to solving a Rubik’s cube.
“It’s a heavy lift,” said Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID). “We want to get this done.”
“I think we are all trying to figure out where we are in the process right now,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), one of a group of Republicans who seem to be in play on health care.
Despite some concerns in some parts of the GOP, others continue to be optimistic.
“I’m hopeful that we’ll get this done sooner rather than later,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), who rattled off a series of question marks about the Senate GOP health plan, focusing on how to bring down premiums, and how to deal with the costs of Medicaid.
“Right now Medicaid is not on a sustainable path,” Perdue said. “It will collapse of its own weight just like Obamacare did.”
Down at the White House, the President was putting heat on GOP leaders to come up with something that can get fifty votes in the Senate.
“If Congress doesn’t act to save Americans from this Democrat-inflicted catastrophe, next year is only going to get a lot worse,” Mr. Trump said.
Health care is the keystone to the President’s legislative agenda; until action is finished on that in the Congress, Republicans cannot really start work on a package of tax cuts or next year’s budget bills.
“Let’s get to work, and let’s get it done,” the President said.
But for now here in the halls of the Capitol, it’s obvious that it will be a struggle to get a vote before July 4th, as there is still no finalized GOP plan.