The Senate Will Separate Obamacare Repeal & Replacement Efforts

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Following the news Monday night that the Senate's health care replacement bill would not have enough votes for a debate on the floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement that, even without a health care replacement, the Senate will vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Per McConnell's statement, posted to his Twitter on Monday:

Regretfully, it's now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful.

So, in the coming days, the Senate will vote to take up the House bill with the first amendment in order being what a majority of the Senate has already supported in 2015 and that was vetoed by then-President Obama: a repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period to a patient-centered health care system that gives Americans access to quality, affordable care.

McConnell's call for the vote came shortly after a tweet from President Donald Trump that called for the same, adding that the "clean slate" from the repeal would encourage Democrats to cooperate:

Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!

A statement from a White House official prior to Trump's tweet also hinted strongly at a repeal-sans-replacement outcome being a possibility:

Insurance markets continue to collapse, premiums continue to rise, and Obamacare remains a failure. Inaction is not an option. We look forward to Congress continuing to work toward a bill the president can sign to end the Obamacare nightmare and restore quality care at affordable prices.

This isn't the first time that a repeal-now/replace-later solution has been floated by the White House or Republicans in Congress. However, the president's goal of getting a repeal on his desk ASAP — a plan that he, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton agree on — is evident.

Meanwhile, experts have explicitly said that the model of repealing without a replacement "is almost certainly a disastrous way to start" the process, according to a December 2016 analysis from the Leonard D. Schaeffer Initiative for Innovation in Health Policy — a partnership between the Center for Health Policy at the Brookings Institution and the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics.

In addition to potentially destabilizing the individual market, the new repeal plan could increase premiums by 20 percent, and lead to many young and healthy people to drop their insurance (and leave a sicker high risk pool). The Brookings analysis also stated that "the market destabilization caused by 'repeal before replace' would increase the number of uninsured by 4.3 million people near immediately."

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats were quick to condemn the "repeal without a replacement" path. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut tweeted shortly after the announcement that doing so would be "a humanitarian disaster of incomprehensible scale."

While the 2015 vote to repeal without replacement was passed by Republicans with a vote of 52-47, it was considered more symbolic than anything, as it was guaranteed to be vetoed when it hit President Obama's desk. As more Republicans reconsider (and even publicly condemn) the dangers of passing sub-par healthcare legislation prior to the 2018 midterms, the results of any future vote aren't so cut and dry.