Monday, February 8, 2016

Republicans Vote to Repeal Obamacare - Again and Again

Breaking news!! The House of Representative voted to repeal all of Obamacare - for the 33rd time. In a recurring political ritual, Republicans in the chamber denounced the law as a government takeover and said that all of it has to go. Then they backed up their statements with a vote.

Republicans Vote to Repeal Obamacare – Again and Again


by Robert I. Field, Ph.D., J.D., M.P.H.

 Breaking news!! The House of Representative voted to repeal all of Obamacare – for the 33rd time.

In a recurring political ritual, Republicans in the chamber denounced the law as a government takeover and said that all of it has to go. Then they backed up their statements with a vote. 

The action has virtually no chance of becoming law. The Democratic majority in the Senate is certain to block it. And if for some reason it does not, Obama has promised to veto it.

Many Republicans, aware that repeal is likely to go nowhere, acknowledge that the vote is largely symbolic. But symbolic of what?

They had based much of their opposition to health reform on the claim that it is unconstitutional. Attorneys allied with the party turned to the final arbiter of constitutionality, the Supreme Court, to prove their point. 

The Court has now spoken, and it found, to the contrary, that most of the law passes constitutional muster.

Now, opponents contend that while health reform may be legally valid, it represents bad public policy. They assert that alternative approaches to fixing the health care system would work better.

But Republicans have yet to propose a substitute. And they don’t plan to formulate one until after the November elections.

The closest thing to a Republican health care plan is a series of steps outlined by policy experts at two conservative think tanks. However, many of the steps they advocate are already part of Obamacare. It is less an alternative to Obama’s plan than a reaffirmation of it. 

Nevertheless, House Republicans express such outrage at Obamacare that they find no room for compromise. They claim that all of it must go.

But they have already voted to keep part of it – and done so twice.

That part is a series of cuts to Medicare that were included in health reform to help offset the cost. The budget plan formulated by Rep. Paul Ryan (R – Wisc.) had included all of those cuts (but without any expansion of health care coverage), and every Republican member of Congress voted for it.

And, in perhaps the biggest contradiction, the plan that so outrages Republicans is based almost entirely on their own ideas.

The notion of a mandate on individuals to maintain health insurance originated with Richard Nixon. It was developed in detail by the conservative Heritage Foundation in 1990, backed by a group of 20 Senate Republicans in the mid-1990s, and implemented by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts in 2006. 

In fact, no prominent Republican expressed outrage with the idea until after Obama had adopted it in 2009.

The ritual of voting to repeal Obamacare is pure political theatre. It is clear that Republicans are not acting out of concern for the Constitution, do not envision better policy approaches, have no desire to replace it entirely, and do not even harbor true ideological objections.

Perhaps it’s not fair to fault politicians for playing politics. That’s their job.

But when it comes to health reform, the financial security, health, and even lives of millions of Americans are at stake. Is it too much to hope that they would take that into account?


Professor, Drexel University Kline School of Law & Dornsife School of Public Health
We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue.
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines.

Comment policy: comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Read 0 comments
comments powered by Disqus
About this blog

Check Up is a blog for savvy health consumers, covering the latest developments, discoveries, and debates from the Philadelphia area and beyond.

Portions of this blog may also be found in the Inquirer's Sunday Health Section.

Charlotte Sutton Health and Science Editor, Philadelphia Inquirer
Tom Avril Inquirer Staff Writer, heart health and general science
Stacey Burling Inquirer Staff Writer, neuroscience and aging
Marie McCullough Inquirer Staff Writer, cancer and women's health
Don Sapatkin Inquirer Staff Writer, public health
David Becker, M.D. Board certified cardiologist, Chestnut Hill Temple Cardiology
Michael R. Cohen, R.Ph. President, Institute for Safe Medication Practices
Daniel R. Hoffman, Ph.D. President, Pharmaceutical Business Research Associates
Hooman Noorchashm, M.D., Ph.D. Cardiothoracic surgeon in the Philadelphia area
Amy J. Reed, M.D., Ph.D. Anesthesiologist and Surgical Intensivist in the Philadelphia Area
Latest Health Videos
Also on
letter icon Newsletter