Here’s the one and only way the GOP can put together a plausible alternative to the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a., Obamacare. At least, a plan that wouldn’t actually move healthcare left politically and build the path toward universal healthcare, leaving GOP leadership melting in their own clothes.
It’s pretty simple. They should hire a copy editor and a proofreader, ideally, someone who has ghostwritten books for the conservative rich and shameless. House Speaker Paul Ryan should give them a copy of the ACA, and give them three weeks to rewrite it, phrase for phrase, and sentence by sentence. They should replace words like “exchanges” with “alternative swaps,” and “individual mandate” with “personal responsibility.” The editor and proofreader should look out for specific references to coverage for preexisting conditions, the poverty thresholds for qualifying for Medicaid, and coverage of women’s reproductive healthcare costs. The two of them should make a point of burying them into subsections, using the term “other persons” (just like in the US Constitution) or, in the case of women, the female symbol ♀, which few GOP members or their constituents would know.
The biggest issue after a thorough rewriting and review would be how to repackage the old plan as new. This is where Ryan can reach out to retired GOP leadership like John Boehner or Newt Gingrich. They were so good at boiling complex issues down to three words for their conservative and far-right conservative comrades. “Tax-and-spend,” “cap-and-trade,” and “drill, baby, drill,” are among their top 40 hits since the 1980s. With help from the old heads, Ryan can come up with “more-for-less” (really “more or less,” and for Spanish speakers, “mas o menos”) in boiling down the essentials of the new-old bill. The official name of the bill would be the Alternative Healthcare Act, or the AHA. But with 45 as president, it would likely remain either Trumpcare or MAGACare.
The bill would be immensely popular, even with non-Republicans, and would pass Congressional Budget Office muster, not to mention the news media’s. And despite reporting from Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes at MSNBC, Vice News on HBO, and Mother Jones and The Atlantic, most will not notice that the GOP bill is exactly the same as Obamacare. Certainly not the dunderheads at FOX News or Breitbart.
There’s just one problem. There’s no way Ryan’s oversized ego would allow for this nefarious, new-wine-in-old-wine-skins plan to go forward. Nearly a third of the GOP members in the House just want to repeal Obamacare without providing any replacement at all, not even if it were only for their grandparents, kids, and grandkids. Mostly, the plan would die because someone would leak its details before the copy editor finished word-smithing the first ten pages of the ACA.
Bottom line: the GOP is caught between a roiling river full of hungry alligators and a rocky shoreline with a pride of starving lions who cannot believe their luck. The GOP as a party deserves to be eaten for lunch, starting with their guts, and all while being suffocated. And their last thoughts should be, “pain and gain.”