A complicating facet of the fiery Republican opposition to ‘Obamacare’ is popular parts of the law that even GOP lawmakers have recently begun to sympathize with on various levels: guaranteed insurance coverage regardless of preexisting conditions and letting dependents up to 26 years old remain on a parent’s policy.
This week House Republicans are poised to vote to repeal President Obama’s signature legislation — their 31st vote to repeal or dismantle the law. While a vote for repeal has become a litmus test for Republicans, some GOP lawmakers in tough races this fall are carving out nuanced positions on the Affordable Care Act — including in some cases where their own family members benefit from it.
One example is Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA), whose daughter, Brianna, has skin cancer, according to the local North County Times. In a world without ‘Obamacare’ an individual in her position is likely to be denied coverage, kicked off her insurance or forced to pay exorbitant costs. With the law in place, she’s safe.
Bilbray, who serves in a swing district, supports repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but he has cosponsored legislation with Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) to use the revenue from one of its taxes to fund cancer research.
Another example is Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who was elected to the Senate in early 2010 on a platform of total ‘Obamacare’ repeal, and is defending his seat against Elizabeth Warren. This summer, Brown, who last year voted for repeal, admitted he uses the under-26 coverage for his 23-year-old daughter, Ayla, under his insurance policy.
“Of course I do,” Brown told the Boston Globe, standing firm for repeal but arguing that states should adopt the good parts of the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans could credibly say it’s no more hypocritical of them to take advantage of ‘Obamacare’ than for President Obama to embrace super PACs. As Obama argued in that instance, one side should not be unilaterally disadvantaged by their opposition to an existing law. But the hedging involves considerations both personal and political.
Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), a freshman whose seat was held by Democrats for the previous four decades, is also hedging in his opposition to the law. He told the New York Times that provisions involving preexisting conditions and a ban on lifetime coverage caps should “absolutely” continue regardless of what happens with repeal.
“If it means increasing my premiums, so be it,” McKinley told the Times. “That’s what insurance is about.”
In the weeks leading up the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, the prospect that Republicans might get their wish caused GOP leaders to consider reinstating some of the same provisions in a replacement plan. Now that the court has upheld the law, the party does not have to answer for any benefits taken away, which means the only health care item on the agenda between now and Election Day is ‘Obamacare’ repeal.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.