After initially claiming that they “will not campaign for full health care repeal”, Republicans have fully embraced a ‘repeal and replace’ strategy — even if the ‘replacers’ they’re proposing are just watered-down policies of provisions that are already part of the current law. Ron Johnson, who is challenging Sen. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin has pledged to “vote to repeal the Health Care Bill and replace it with market-based solutions that will include: portability, malpractice reform, mandate reduction, insurance purchase across state lines, lower costs, and a safety net for those with pre-existing conditions.”
After a debate with Feingold on Friday, however, Johnson had second thoughts about this strategy. He first embraced repeal and replace, but then backed away from immediate repeal, telling reporters that he supports provisions that would prohibit insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions:
REPORTER: Is there anything in the bill that you like that needs to stay?
JOHNSON: Well certainly provisions that we can, again, there that we can repeal the whole thing and replace it with modest bills. Incremental, a modular type of system. What I’ve been talking about is not repeal and then replace. I would suggest we replace and then repeal. Let’s face it. We’re not going to repeal it in the first two years. So what I suggest is if the Republicans take over one of the houses of Congress, they start writing the replacement bill from day 1 so that we can show the American people this is what we intend to do and then we can show exactly how we’re going to solve the health care system in this country.
REPORTER: So health care for people with pre-existing conditions?
JOHNSON: My daughter’s heart is backwards. I think every voter in Wisconsin can be sure that I protect people with pre-existing conditions — that they’ll be able to maintain coverage.
Under the GOP’s replacement Pledge in the House, however, individuals with pre-existing conditions who are currently uninsured could have a hard time finding affordable insurance since issuers would still be able to deny them coverage.
Johnson’s attempt to temper expectations for what Republican will be able to achieve if they do win back the House after the mid-term elections was also recently echoed by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) who told PBS’ The News Hour: “Even if we controlled the House, unless we controlled the Senate and got 60 votes, we wouldn’t be able to pass any corresponding legislation in the Senate. So I think, we need to keep expectations, again, fairly modest as far as what we can do over the next two years.”
In July, Johnson was certain that Republicans must instantly repeal the health law. “The U.S. should rip up the recently passed health reform law and emphasize free-market principles such as health savings accounts and out-of-pocket charges – for as big a chunk of the country’s medical care as possible,” Johnson told the Journal Sentinel, insisting that the uninsurance crisis was overblown and that some people could find care at retail clinics like Walmart and Walgreens.