When it comes to the long-awaited Republican repeal and replace of Obamacare, my stare is transfixed on two Hoosier environs, the 2nd and 6th congressional districts.
Up in the 2nd CD, U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski exulted in the imminent repeal of Obamacare. “We’re doing exactly what we said we would do,” Walorski told the South Bend Tribune. “It’s what people have been asking for.”
And from the Indiana perspective, she is right. Obamacare has never been popular here.
In January, President Donald Trump explained, “I want to take care of everybody. I’m not going to leave the lower 20 percent that can’t afford insurance. So I want to make sure that nobody’s dying on the streets when I’m president.” He vowed that it would be low cost and better coverage for everyone.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Monday that 14 million Americans would lose coverage next year and 24 million by 2026 under the GOP's American Health Care Act.
Last week, Walorski said she could not guarantee that no one would lose coverage.
Walorski represents the most competitive congressional district in Indiana, at +6 Republican on the Cook Partisan Index. She appears to be getting a break in that the most potent Democrat challenger, South Bend Mayor Peter Buttigieg, appears to be passing on a 2018 challenge.
But 2018 appears to be a vastly different beast than any of the other cycles of this decade. This is the first with a Republican president, and the 2nd CD over the years is much more competitive in mid-term elections under GOP presidents. Just ask former congressman John Hiler. How Trump will be perceived, and whether he has coattails or becomes a millstone, is impossible to forecast.
In the 2nd CD, there are 18,900 people who have accessed health coverage via the federal Obamacare exchange. Of the 420,000 Hoosiers on Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, about 50,000 have coverage in the 2nd CD. So what happens to upward of 60,000 to 70,000 of Walorski’s constituents is to be determined. Logic says that if you take away a benefit, those folks might be motivated to vote against those responsible.
The 6th CD in southeastern Indiana has become a microcosm of the Republican stew. Vice President Mike Pence represented the 6th CD for 12 years and declared of RyanCare that “This is the plan,” though conceding that it faces a “very open process on Capitol Hill.”
Pence’s friend and predecessor, Club for Growth President David McIntosh, panned it, saying, “If this warmed-over substitute for government-run health care remains unchanged, the Club for Growth will key vote against it.”
How will poorer folks fare? “We’ve got the best answer,” McIntosh said. “When you start competing across state lines, they will have affordable health care. The rates will go down. With the Ryan bill, the rates won’t go down. They’ll have a lot better options than either under Obamacare or RyanCare.”
And Pence’s successor, U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, part of the House leadership team, told me last week that he believes there will be Republican consensus.
Messer went on to say, “My sense is that President Trump will be the tiebreaker here.”
But Trump was all over the map last week, telling the House GOP Whip Team that he was “proud to support” Speaker Ryan’s bill and wants it to pass “largely intact.” That is startling naivete.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul declared it “Obamacare Lite” and a non-starter. To which Trump tweeted, “I feel sure that my friend @RandPaul will come along with the new and great health care program.”
Stay tuned, folks.