Congress will start the promised debate on repealing the 2010 health care law today, with a vote scheduled for Wednesday. The Republicans may be successful in the House, but they have no chance of repealing it in the Senate.
At least two other scenarios seem more likely. Republicans can try to stop funding for the bill -- or to delay it, regulate it or delegate it to the states. Another course will be to modify, but not repeal it. We think the latter is a good idea.
While the Congressional Budget Office says it will cost big money to repeal the bill, we simply don't believe it. You cannot add a lot of "goodies" for everyone, as well as covering 30 million more people, without it costing a lot of money. And even if that works, it doesn't cover the entire 50 million Americans who don't have insurance.
The bill's most egregious flaw is its failure to address the public's biggest concern -- the cost of health insurance. President Obama and the Democrats constantly talk about restoring the financial health of the middle class, but it is the middle class that will take the hit with "Obamacare."
The wealthy can afford it. The poor will get it for free or nearly free, but the middle class is suffering already with big increases in costs. While some insurance companies say Obamacare is responsible for only 4 percent or 5 percent of their increases, others peg it higher. If the president focuses on cutting costs, he could not only remove the current 4 percent or 5 percent, he could cut another 5 percent. The entire country would be grateful.
There are some interesting polls of how Americans feel about Obamacare. While GOP opposition stands at 71 percent, a cross-section of the nation is split in its opinion, with 25 percent wanting to repeal the law completely. Sixty percent oppose the requirement that everyone has to carry health insurance; some 20 states are suing on this ground.
One part of the plan is already failing. Special health plans, created for those rejected by the insurance industry, were expected to attract 375,000 people. Only 8,000 have signed up so far.
The bottom line is that the existing health care law is a botched pile of promises with no certainty that it will work, but a guarantee that it will not reduce health care costs for the middle class.
Congress' challenge, then, is to reshape the health care law into a plan that will work at a price we can afford.