President Obama offered the governors of all states a grand bargain on Monday: Set up working, affordable, universal health care systems in your states in the next three years and we’ll unburden you from the requirements of the health care law.
Republicans saw this coming, though, and rejected it as grounds for detente weeks ago.
“That doesn’t give the states the option to opt out,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), at a press conference last month. “That just says they have to live under Obamacare, and they can then run it themselves.”
The plan Obama endorsed to the governors is the brainchild of Sens. Scott Brown (R-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). As currently written, the health care law allows states to experiment with alternative health reforms, and potentially opt out of the “Obamacare” framework by 2017 — that is, if they can provide near-universal, quality coverage at low cost. The Brown/Wyden plan would bump that date back to 2014, so that states wouldn’t have to face three years worth of overlapping requirements.
Wyden and other liberal members like this plan because it will allow their states to experiment with more-progressive versions of reform, even single-payer. Brown likes it because, well, Massachusetts basically has a version of “Obamacare” (aka “Romneycare”) alive and operating, and doesn’t want to bear the cost of another.
But this was never going to upend the broad GOP push for repealing the law. As Barrasso and other Republicans argued forthrightly earlier this year, the only opt out provisions they really support are ones that fatally undermine the law.
And even Brown, who co-authored this plan has told us that he’d still support full repeal, even if Congress adopted this measure.
At a weekly Capitol briefing with reporters Monday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Obama’s olive branch really just masks the case for full repeal.
“It is just making our point that not only have we seen a variety of exceptions and waivers issued for the private sector under the act, but now we are seeing how that act is troubling states in a real way as far as their trying to figure out the fiscal situations,” he said.
In other words, don’t expect Obama’s entreaty to be some sort of panacea.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.