To the extent that health care was a part of the 2024 campaign cycle, it was only because health care was effectively absent from the 2024 campaign cycle. During September’s Republican presidential primary debate, for example, Fox News’ Dana Perino asked whether the Affordable Care Act was “here to stay.” No one on the stage wanted to answer.
About a month later, The Wall Street Journal reported that the issue had simply “disappeared” from the political landscape.
That was in early November. A lot can happen in a month.
Donald Trump, who’d largely ignored the ACA since leaving office nearly three years ago, has begun going after “Obamacare” in increasingly explicit terms, apparently indifferent to the fact that the landmark reform law is working well and about as popular as it’s ever been.
He’s not alone. Last week, former Ambassador Nikki Haley also appeared to open the door to repealing the ACA.
Roughly 24 hours ago, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis joined the parade. NBC News reported:
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he would replace Obamacare with a “better plan.” … “Obamacare hasn’t worked,” DeSantis said in the interview with moderator Kristen Welker, which aired Sunday morning. “We are going to replace and supersede with a better plan.”
The Florida Republican described an imaginary health care blueprint that would feature “more transparency, more consumer choice, more affordable options, less red tape, [and] less bureaucracy weighing everybody down.”
And while that certainly sounded nice, DeSantis presented literally zero details about how, exactly, he intended to achieve these lofty goals — which have eluded his party for over a decade — and the governor has not unveiled anything even resembling a health care plan, though he said the public would “probably” see his plan in the spring.
In other words, under the GOP candidate’s vision, a prospective DeSantis administration would knock down a popular and effective system that’s providing health security to 40 million people, and providing critically important consumer benefits to tens of millions more. At that point, the Floridian wants people to believe, he’d replace the popular and effective system with something even better — but he’s not yet prepared to tell anyone what that blueprint would look like, how it would work, how much it would cost, and who the winners and losers would be.
What’s more, as we discussed last week, some congressional Republicans are adding their voices to this debate. Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told Axios last week, “I think Obamacare has been one of the biggest deceptions on the American people. I mean just look at your health care premiums.” (Premium costs, in reality, have gone down, not up.)
The same report added that Republican Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, who’d likely take over the Senate Finance Committee if the GOP retakes control of the chamber, also said he’s open to repeal-and-replace plans.
Remember, the Republicans’ 2017 effort to tear down the ACA was a disaster for the party, which Democrats exploited to help take back the House majority in the 2018 midterm elections. Democrats would love little more than to have this fight again in 2024 — a recent national survey from NBC News found the party with a 23-point advantage over the GOP on health care — which makes it all the more notable when many of the Republicans’ national leaders generously agree to say exactly what Democrats want them to say.