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Democrats ignore Obamacare victims at their own peril

That a candidate who promised to repeal the law won in historically blue states should ​not be lost on us. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

December 13, 2016

Political observers are still struggling to explain President-elect Trump’s shocking electoral victory. Most explanations, particularly from the Left, fail to realize Trump may have actually offered some policy solutions that voters from red states to the Rust Belt found appealing.

For example, in a Dec. 5 Washington Post opinion piece, Greg Sargent inadvertently sums up this tunnel vision by concern-trolling over the potential that “a lot of people in red states are set to lose Obamacare.” To hear Sargent explain it, red-state voters are about to suddenly discover they will suffer if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. They might even pressure Republicans ​not to repeal it at all.

​But consider this: Before Election Day, a Republican hadn’t won Michigan since 1988​ and Wisconsin since 1984. ​These Democrat strongholds​ propelled ​Trump to victory, even as he promised throughout his campaign to repeal the Affordable Care Act as soon as possible. ​Clearly, the threat of repeal wasn’t a boogeyman for blue-state voters, much less Republicans.

To be sure, there are numerous complicated issues involved with repealing the Affordable Care Act, including how to avoid dropping millions from coverage or otherwise continue to drive up healthcare costs. More popular portions of the law that Trump has mulled keeping — for example, coverage for pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26 — just happen to be some of the more expensive provisions. Absent real measures to keep insurance companies involved and costs down, a new replacement could lead to an even bigger collapse of the health insurance market.

No repeal will be perfect, and members of Congress determined to follow through should also brace themselves for the unavoidable fact that some people will lose coverage under a repeal-and-replace scenario. Rolling back a government program people already depend on is notoriously difficult for this very reason.

It is not surprising that many Republicans are already dealing with internal struggles over just how to structure the next steps, dividing into a “repeal then agree on a replacement” camp and an “agree on a replacement then repeal” camp. The former has earned some criticism for its potential to create another “fiscal cliff” scenario, while the latter leads others to worry that repeal will never actually happen. That said, the selection of Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., as secretary of health and human services suggests Republicans have a viable plan for replacement and will be pressured to follow through on repeal, no matter which happens first.

For millions of Americans, coping with massive premium hikes will simply never be possible, much less worth it. The administration and Democratic establishment largely shrugged off those concerns by pointing out that subsidies would also rise, giving an effective middle finger to the millions of Americans who make too much to qualify for subsidies but not nearly enough to afford massive premium hikes.

Democrats and Republicans would be wise to realize ​that ​what voters​ have been feeling, in both red states and blue ones, ​is​ the pain ​of increasingly unaffordable healthcare and government programs that have not come through on their promises. So long as Democrats continue to treat Obamacare repeal as a tragedy instead of desperately-needed relief, they will remain out of touch with millions of middle-class voters in red and blue states that voted for the candidate promising change.

That a candidate who promised to repeal the law won in historically blue states should ​not be lost on us.

Regardless of the short-term pain that will naturally come with repeal, this relief is one that millions of middle-class families dealing with skyrocketing premiums and lack of ​choice are desperately needing. Those determined to ignore the victims of bad government programs can look forward to ​many more “shocking” losses​ to come.