The greatest advantage the Republican Party held, through eight years of political war over the provision of health care, was not having a plan to defend. After November’s elections handed them full control of government, Republicans designed a strategy to retain that advantage: repeal-and-delay, which would have allowed them to eliminate Obamacare without specifying the replacement. Repeal-and-delay failed, forcing them instead to pass a replacement plan. That plan has proven wildly unpopular. Indeed, it is so deeply unpopular that Republicans have given up defending the plan at all. Instead, they are back to promising an unspecified, future plan that will be revealed only after Obamacare has been gutted first.
The most significant development to come out of the last week is that Republicans no longer defend the American Health Care Act. When confronted with the fact that his plan would make counties that supported him far worse off, Trump acknowledged, “Oh, I know.” Paul Ryan, appearing on Fox News Sunday, echoed Trump. “We do believe we need to add some additional assistance to people in those older cohorts,” he told Chris Wallace. “We believe we should have more assistance, and that’s what we are looking at.” Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price told CNN, “This is not the plan.”
By “this,” Price meant the plan that the White House and Republican leadership had claimed as its plan. The real plan has “three prongs,” of which the bill is only the first. The other two involve a combination of regulatory moves that may or may not be legal and a package of legislative changes that stands a zero-percent chance of being passed into law. (They’re omitted from this bill because they cannot be included in a reconciliation bill, and thus are subject to a filibuster and require Democratic support, which will not be forthcoming.)