Health law update: Opposition retreats

As the nation freezes due to ice storms and polar air, the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) opposition is warming up to the law – or at least dropping the cold shoulder. GOP leaders are abandoning their single-minded “repeal” agenda in favor of “replace.”

In early January, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce signaled such a position change, acknowledging the Administration intends to keep the law. Republican analyst Doug Holtz-Eakin is launching a think tank designed to support health policy reform beyond the ACA.

On January 27, a trio of health policy heavyweights in the Senate unveiled the most complete ACA replacement plan yet.

The Republican alternative sheds some of the law’s main requirements, including the individual and employer mandates, minimum health benefits and coverage of pre-existing conditions. The proposal is led by Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). It eliminates most of the taxes and fees used to fund the ACA’s government subsidies and offers its own set of tax credits to help low-income consumers afford coverage. It would also allow insurers to charge older consumers more than the ACA does, explains The Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff.

President Obama challenged his opponents in his State of the Union address the next day, simultaneously ribbing the past two years of Republican strategy with: “Let’s not have another forty-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans. The first forty were plenty. We all owe it to the American people to say what we’re for, not just what we’re against.”

The ACA did not appear until over halfway through his speech Tuesday night, but when it did come up, it was very much a hard sell, notes David Nather of Politico: Obama issued no apologies for the law’s rocky rollout.

Republicans had a retreat late last week, where under Speaker John Boehner’s leadership, they discussed other alternatives (presumably between s’mores and campfire songs).

-Sophie Schwadron