BY PHONE, EMAIL and in raucous town halls around the country, voters are demanding to know what will take the place of the Affordable Care Act (that is, Obamacare) if it is repealed. And they won't take platitudes for an answer.
Without a replacement for the ACA, 18 million people will lose their health insurance, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. (Estimates from other sources are higher.) If that happens, a lot of people who could have been saved will die: from 20,000 to 43,000 a year, depending on the expert you consult.
A significant number of Republican members of Congress don't seem to mind that possibility: They're all for repealing the law, period. Others claim they will come up with something better. Tennessee U.S. Rep. Diane Black told a contentious town hall meeting last week that Republicans would replace the ACA with "something that is good for the American people." And you can take that to the bank.
Some Republicans reassure voters that when ACA is repealed, it will be replaced with a plan that will allow people able to keep the things they like, like insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and children staying on their parents' plans until age 26. (Of course, that doesn't include an estimated 11 million people who got insurance under ACA's expansion of Medicaid.)
Republican congressmen such as Brian Fitzpatrick of Bucks County and Patrick Meehan of Delaware County are on record with concerns about the ACA's high premiums and deductibles, implying that they intend to fix those problems.
Except, no one can say what the Republican ACA replacement, if there is one, would look like. Most Republican ideas are just outlines, those pesky details still to come. After weeks of wrangling, House Republicans on Thursday again offered more confident talk of "health savings accounts" and "high-risk pools," but no evidence that anything on the table has enough votes to pass.
If it wasn't clear before, it is now: Republicans voted over 50 times to repeal the ACA without having a clue what would happen to the millions of people who depend on it.
None of the Republican ideas floating around would lead to lower premiums or deductibles for the people who actually would be able to keep their insurance. Instead, they supposedly offer "universal access" - that is, you can have health insurance, if you can pay for it. Just like all of us have "access" to buying a Lexus or an apartment in Trump Tower. But repealing the ACA would mean a huge tax windfall for the richest Americans: $33,000 a year for the top 1 percent, while increasing taxes on the middle class.
Secret recordings of the Republican meeting in Philadelphia last month revealed at least some members of Congress panicked that they will be blamed for millions of Americans losing their health care. We can help them, and ourselves, by keeping up the pressure on members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, to fix the ACA, not kill it.
What can you do? Sens. Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders sent a letter to Democratic senators last week asking them to lead rallies on Feb. 25 in support of the ACA. Sen. Bob Casey's office says he is working on it. Watch for details, then show up.