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Hold Everything: Trump/GOP suddenly reverse course, scramble to "repair" and "stabilize" ACA after all? Or is it another big head fake?

Oh for the love of God...

GOP Rebrands Obamacare Strategy From 'Repeal' to 'Repair'

Some Republicans in Congress are starting to talk more about trying to “repair” Obamacare, rather than simply calling for "repeal and replace.”

There's good reason for that.

The repair language was discussed by Republicans during their closed-door policy retreat in Philadelphia last week as a better way to brand their strategy. Some of that discussion flowed from views that Republicans may not be headed toward a total replacement, said one conservative House lawmaker who didn't want to be identified.

Using the word repair “captures exactly what the large majority of the American people want,” said Frank Luntz, a prominent Republican consultant and pollster who addressed GOP lawmakers at their retreat.

“The public is particularly hostile about skyrocketing costs, and they demand immediate change,” Luntz said in an e-mail response to questions. “Repair is a less partisan but no less action-oriented phrase that Americans overwhelmingly embrace.”

Republicans are grappling with their party's desire -- and President Donald Trump's promise -- to dismantle Obamacare, as well as the political disaster that could ensue if millions of Americans lose coverage as a result of legislation. 

Yes, that's right: After seven years of screaming about how FULL REPEAL!!! ROOT AND BRANCH!!! is the only acceptable response to the ACA, and after a solid month of doing everything possible to sabotage the individual market, all of a sudden the Republican Party is finally realizing that they don't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of in terms of a "replacement plan".

If the GOP really wants to "repair" the ACA, I can think of four easy fixes right off the bat:

Hey, perhaps they can try beefing up the subsidies, closing the Medicaid Gap, fixing the family glitch and restoring the risk corridors? https://t.co/b4J0361efR

— ☪️Charles Gaba ☪️ (@charles_gaba) February 1, 2017

...otherwise known as the exact same "fixes" which Democrats have been pushing for for years now.

On the other hand, this new "Repair!' story reads an awful lot like a mere marketing/window dressing for whatever the hell they are planning on doing. Brand-meister Frank Luntz himself admits this flat out: They're just gonna change the word used to describe...whatever they're doing.

In other words, it could simply be this:

See?? Make a few cosmetic changes, claim that you've "repaired" Obamacare, declare victory and go home. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!!

Then, House Speaker Paul Ryan confused the issue even further:

Ryan was asked about the “repair” strategy Thursday on Fox & Friends and said there was a “miscommunication.”

“So what kind of got going on here is, I’ve got a confluence of words,” Ryan said during the television interview. “To repair the American health-care system, you have to repeal and replace this law, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Ah. That's clear as mud.

Some are on board with the "repair" strategy...

“I've been saying this for a long time,” Sessions said. While some of his Republican colleagues continue to say that Obamacare needs to be torn out from its roots, Sessions protests, “Not from me, you've never heard that.”

...others aren't having it, even as a political marketing move:

“I'm out there saying repeal and no replace -- that's as pretty strong as it gets,” Representative Roger Williams, a Texas Republican, said in an interview. He said he believes things should “just go back the way they were” before Obamacare.

Of course, this is nonsense. Roger Williams of Texas is living in a fantasyland if he thinks that simply "fully repealing" the ACA would turn things back to "the way they were" before the law was passed. He doesn't seem to grasp that the ACA has completely transformed the entire healthcare system in the United States, far beyond the 25 million or so enrolled via the exchanges and/or Medicaid expansion.

Anyway, that brings me to this morning's latest development, courtesy of Paul Demko and Sabrina Corlette:

Trump administration puts forward new rule to "stabilize" ACA marketplaces. https://t.co/khOuSPnovx No details yet. h/t @pauldemko

— Sabrina Corlette (@SabrinaCorlette) February 2, 2017

When you go to the link, you get this:

Pending EO 12866 Regulatory Review

  • RIN: 0938-AT14
  • View EO 12866 Meetings
  • Received Date: 02/01/2017 
  • Title: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; Market Stabilization (CMS-9929-P)
  • Agency/Subagency: HHS / CMS
  • Stage: Proposed Rule
  • Legal Deadline: None
  • Economically Significant: Yes
  • International Impacts: No
  • Affordable Care Act [PPACA, P.L. 111-148 & 111-152]: Yes
  • Dodd-Frank Act [Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, P.L. 111-203]: No

"Economically Significant"

Huh. If I was a betting man, I'd guess this has to do with the fact that the Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) payments which the GOP sued to get rid of are still in limbo. That's the most immediate and dire threat to the exchange enrollees and the individual market as a whole.

The other possibility I can think of is that Trump has decided that the GOP insisting on ripping away the Risk Corridor payments (which are still legally due to the insurance carriers, remember) might not have been the wisest idea after all, and is going to insist on restoring that funding in some way (though they'll no doubt call it something else and ignore the fact that they killed the payments in the first place).

Honestly, this could mean anything...or it could mean absolutely nothing.