Kudos to whichever policy aide in the office of Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, came up with the idea of naming his Obamacare repeal bill “World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017.” Given the suffering and misery that would result from this or any other repeal, that person has an unparalleled sense of irony.
But what great branding! How could Donald Trump, our most brand-obsessed president ever not go for a bill named “World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017?” Print it on gold-trimmed paper! Chisel it on marble tablets and set them on the National Mall as a monument to Republican greatness!
Sessions introduced this bill a week ago, though the media seems to have just noticed it on Wednesday. According to The Daily Beast, the amiable dimwit who chairs the House Rules Committee hoped the Republican caucus would base its repeal efforts off his work. Instead, the GOP modeled the American Health Care Act, the official name of the repeal bill unveiled this past Monday, on legislation written by Tom Price, the former Georgia congressman recently installed as Donald Trump’s secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
That's too bad — not because the World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017 is better than the nightmare of a bill that the GOP is pushing. Sessions’ bill is also garbage that fulfills every promise that Republicans have been making about Obamacare repeal for seven years, no matter how destructive and contradictory. It would keep the more popular features of the original Affordable Care Act, such as the ability for young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, while throwing away the mechanisms that made the ACA financially workable (the individual and employer mandates). Sessions might as well have called it the “Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too, Plan of 2017” but that might have been a little too on-the-nose.
Sessions’s bill may be a purer repeal of Obamacare than the American Health Care Act, which has been derided as “Obamacare Lite” by conservatives opposed to maintaining any of the reforms signed into law by former President Barack Obama. The AHCA seems to have been crafted in a half-serious fashion. That is, its authors were trying to pretend that they are serious policy wonks who genuinely care about reform. They tried to write a bill that they hoped would please both moderates and conservatives. So far, they appear to have satisfied neither.
The World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017 makes no such pretenses. The World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan gleefully strips health insurance from millions of people without becoming bogged down in buzzwords like “choice” and “patient-centered care” and “freedom.” This plan would be the easiest account to ever land in the modish offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. It would need hardly any selling at all.
The AHCA forces Republicans to pretend that they have always cared about health care reform — that the last seven years of screaming about death panels and socialist takeovers of the entire health care industry were not overblown hyperventilation designed to wind up the party's base and keep donations to legislators’ re-election campaigns flowing. They must act like they really care about people and aren't just using the passage of an Obamacare repeal to fulfill long-held Republican dreams of defunding Planned Parenthood and whacking Medicare and Medicaid.
Adopting a bill called the World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan would have eliminated the need for Republicans to go through these motions. Even if the name was meant as an ironic wink to the fact that there is nothing great about this plan, imagine what would happen when liberal derision of it started up. Paul Ryan would stand in front of the cameras at his weekly press conference, look at the media with his soulful puppy-dog eyes, and swear on the lives of his children that the Republican repeal bill was, in fact, the greatest health care plan anyone had ever come up with, that the American people believe it is the greatest and that the snark and condescension from Democrats just prove that the GOP is doing the right thing for the public.
Instead, Republicans are being forced to defend their repeal bill on its merits. And on the merits, their bill is obviously terrible. This party is not capable of writing serious health care reform legislation because its leaders do not have and never have had, any interest in serious health care reform legislation. Now they are finally being exposed as the enormous frauds they have been for eight years.
Branding their bill the World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan could have saved them the trouble while achieving their policy goals. They should have called in Don Draper.