Senate Republicans consider pushing Obamacare repeal back to 2020

We’ve gone from repeal and replace to repeal and delay and now it seems like we may be embracing delay and repeal. Bloomberg reports Senate Republicans are now considering a plan that would delay Obamacare repeal until 2020:

Senate Republicans are weighing a two-step process to replace Obamacare that would postpone a repeal until 2020, as they seek to draft a more modest version than a House plan that nonpartisan analysts said would undermine some insurance markets.

Republicans — in the early stages of private talks on the Senate plan — say they may first take action to stabilize premium costs in Obamacare’s insurance-purchasing exchanges in 2018 and 2019. Major insurers have said they will leave the individual market in vast regions of states including North Dakota, Iowa and Missouri…

Senate Republicans say there is a growing consensus that they want a slower phase-out of Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid health coverage for the poor than in the House bill, which would cut the program by about $800 billion. Senators from states that elected to take advantage of the Medicaid expansion, including Rob Portman of Ohio, want a several-year phase-out to avoid a “cliff” that would occur if the expansion ended in 2020 as the House bill reqiuires.

Stabilizing premium costs for two years would probably require an appropriation for cost-sharing payments and a commitment to maintain the individual mandate. That sounds like shoring up Obamacare, not repealing it. Politico reports the goal of the Senate bill is to re-start the conversation over reform rather than try to defend the House bill:

“Leadership is going to spend this recess trying to develop a product [so] that we will have a base of a Senate bill, based on all these discussions, based on what the House did, based on the CBO score,” [Sen. Ron] Johnson said. “I’m happy to let the leadership craft a bill so that we can use that as the next step. When we come back, hopefully we have something to look at and we’ll continue the debate.”

As disappointing as this is for anyone who hoped to see Obamacare repealed, it’s not hard to guess why this is happening. A Quinnipiac poll out today finds 48% of respondents support repealing some of Obamacare (19% support full repeal), but when it comes to the GOP replacement plan only 20% approve of it while 57% disapprove. And that was before the CBO score yesterday which led some GOP Senators to dismiss the House bill. In short, moving forward with a plan that is currently close to 3-1 against isn’t appealing to a lot of Senators. They’d much rather hash out an alternative, especially one which pushes off repeal until well after next year’s election.