Just before Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal revealed his plan to replace ObamaCare last year, he sat down with 15 of Washington’s top conservative healthcare wonks to discuss it. They didn’t approve.
“Near the end, they said, ‘You make a good point, but what you’ve put forward, we just don’t think it’s politically viable,’” Jindal’s long-time adviser Curt Anderson recalled in an interview this week.
To his surprise, he said the group agreed the next GOP nominee couldn’t entirely roll back ObamaCare for fear of losing votes from millions already with coverage. In other words, even ObamaCare’s toughest critics say that parts of the law are here to stay.
The 2016 election will mark the first time Republicans will be running against Obamacare since its biggest pieces have gone into effect, including billions of dollars of subsidies that have helped millions to gain coverage.
Already, GOP strategists are getting heartburn about how to fight against ObamaCare without turning away those who are benefitting.
“Obviously the biggest risk is being perceived as being the Grinch who stole someone’s healthcare,” said Josh Withrow, legislative affairs manager for the conservative group Freedom Works.
“We should be focusing on the fact that healthcare is too expensive. I know it’s not as easy a message to sell as, ‘We’re going to make sure everyone has a plan, but it’s an attempt that has to be made,” he added.
It’s a particularly tough test for a party that remains bitterly divided about how to replace the healthcare law even five years after its passage.
Many in the GOP believe that healthcare offerings in 2016 need to offer specific sweeteners for voters already reaping rewards from ObamaCare. But others, led by Jindal, are outraged by anything that might resemble ObamaCare.
“It’s like the Republican party is basically saying, ‘Well we lost on this, we’ll just come up with our own entitlement program and we’ll run it better.’ They think it’s too late,” Anderson said.
You actually did lose this battle. You lost it four times now, in fact: once when the ACA was passed, once when President Obama was overwhelmingly re-elected, and twice more when you tried to kill the law in the Supreme Court.
But you lost every time. And it's over. Deal with it.