Scott Brown's latest Obamacare fantasy: We can repeal the ACA but keep all the good ACA stuff, with magic

The New Hampshire Senate candidate is the latest GOPer to get away with Obamacare wishful thinking

Published October 22, 2014 7:26PM (EDT)

Scott Brown                    (AP/Alex Brandon)
Scott Brown (AP/Alex Brandon)

Another day in the life of Campaign 2014, another dollop of Obamacare BS. Another Republican saying we can just repeal the Affordable Care Act, but keep all of the nice things about the Affordable Care Act. Everyone can have all the health care they want, without any of the negative complications of trying to make that happen within a private insurance marketplace.

Sen. Mitch McConnell has been leading the charge here. The man's untouchable in terms of candidates trying to have it both ways on Obamacare. He's trying to convince the Kentucky electorate that Obamacare can be repealed "root and branch," but none of the 500,000 people who've gained coverage would lose their coverage. Kynect, the Kentucky state insurance exchange put in place by the Affordable Care Act, is just a "web site" that the state of Kentucky can keep if it wants to. No one's saying we have to delete the web site. Okay, okay.

Then we have Ohio Gov. John Kasich saying that Obamacare needs to be repealed, but not the Medicaid expansion, which is arguably the most important component of the Affordable Care Act. This isn't wholly indefensible. Expanding single-payer health care for the poor while doing away with the private insurance market reforms is a considerable step up from doing away with both. It's just strange that Kasich would want to repeal the whole bill if he likes its most effective component.

And then there's the New Hampshire Senate race.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said in a debate last night that she's "absolutely" proud of her vote in favor of Obamacare. "I think making sure that almost 100,000 people in New Hampshire have access to health care is real progress for people in this state," she said. This, of course, will be interpreted by pundits as some monumental gaffe on Shaheen's part, saying that she's proud of helping to expand health coverage in New Hampshire -- a state where the first-year rollout was rocky, but the second year looks to be an improvement.

Shaheen is running against former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown. Easy going, commonsense talking everyman Scott Brown, who's immigrant-bashed and Ebolamongered his way into striking distance. Brown's talking points on the Affordable Care Act throughout the campaign have been a source of wonder. He favors repeal. He is, after all, most famous for being elected to the Senate to stop Obamacare from going into law, something he was unable to achieve. He wants a second crack at it.

Brown said earlier in the campaign that you can repeal Obamacare and no one one would lose their plan, because those who'd picked up coverage could simply have their plans "grandfathered" into... something. "Grandfathered" into a helpless void? "Grandfathered" into the to-be-determined replacement, whatever it is. The best we can make of it is that "grandfathering" is a term that focus-groups well because most people have positive opinions of their grandfathers.

And then in the debate last night, Brown was asked how he would tell people who've picked up coverage that they would no longer have it, upon repeal. His response was perfectly fun!

Well you're actually assuming that Obamacare is the only answer. And with respect, it's not. We have the ability to develop a plan that addresses those concerns for us. For example, we can address what you just referenced [the Medicaid expansion]. We can also address preexisting care, covering kids to a certain age, dealing with catastrophic care and coverage, there's all sorts of things that we can address. We can develop a plan that works for us.

He went on to mention how he's voted for a plan in the past that worked for a particular state, and New Hampshire should be able to do the same. Presumably he's referring to his vote for Romneycare when he served in the Massachusetts state legislature. Romneycare, of course, being the precise model off of which Obamacare was based. Why wouldn't that model work for New Hampshire? New Hampshire and Massachusetts can't be all that different. They're similar enough that a candidate like Scott Brown can be a strong senatorial candidate in either.

Brown's "we can do all the things Obamacare does, just not in the way Obamacare does them" plays into the convenient notion that expanding health coverage to most people, and ensuring guaranteed issue for those with preexisting conditions, is an easy thing to do. That there are all sorts of options out there to achieve these ends through the private insurance marketplace in an economically sound way. That the Democrats who wrote the bill must have included provisions like the individual mandate -- again, picked up from Mitt Romney -- because cruelty was the end goal in and of itself, not a means of trying to maintain a viable market.

People like Scott Brown and Mitch McConnell need to be challenged on this, and debate moderators need to have some grasp on health care policy. What is your alternative plan for ensuring guaranteed issue for those with preexisting conditions through a private health insurance marketplace without blowing the whole thing up? Perhaps there is something else. If so, wouldn't these candidates want to enthusiastically share the details?

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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