Now the Senate has a zombie Trumpcare bill, too.Back in March, you may recall, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) called off a showdown vote on its effort to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.Good riddance, said many Americans. The bill would have cause 23 million people to lose their health care, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, and cut Medicaid spending by more than $800 billion.Yet, in a visual display of cluelessness about what this draconian legislation could do to human lives, Ryan and other GOP leaders celebrated how much money the legislation would save.Not completely heartless, of course, Ryan argued that the bill would provide more “access” to health care. But critics like me argued back that “access” to President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, to name one pricey example, would not do me much good if I can’t afford the fees.Yet, Ryan resurrected the bill like a zombie and House Republicans passed it in May with no Democratic votes. President Trump staged a photo-op celebration in the Rose Garden, even as Senate Republicans declared the zombie to be DOA at their doorstep.The senators wanted to pass their own version even before the president, in one of his bizarre flip-flops, described the House bill as too “mean.”But, alas, Senate Republicans came up with their own clunker of a bill that the CBO estimated would grow the uninsured by 22 million and cut Medicaid by $772 billion. That’s not much improvement.As it became apparent that it would not get enough votes to pass, even among Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled that bill before a vote could be taken. But later returned with a desperation move: repeal and delay repeal the ACA now, but with a two-year delay in implementation, during which Congress through some miracle perhaps could come up with a replacement.Trump seemed to flip-flop a couple of times between repeal-and-delay and “Let Obamacare die,” while he declared, “I’m not going to own it.”But, of course, he does, along with other Republicans who, I remind, control all three branches of government. Perhaps Trump is learning it is not nearly as easy for a president to pass blame for failures on to the minions below as it is for private sector CEOs.Meanwhile, the unexpected has happened. Now that Republicans don’t have President Obama to kick around, the popularity of Obamacare has risen to new heights. An April Gallup poll, for example, found for the first time that more than half of the Americans surveyed (55 percent) approved of Obamacare.A June Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found Obamacare to be more popular at 41 percent than the House repeal-and-replace alternative at 16 percent. Only 12 percent liked the Senate version in a USA Today/Suffolk University poll.Also rising: Support for a progressive alternative known as “single-payer,” a system like Canada’s in which government provides health coverage to all through a single government-run health insurance system.A June poll by Pew Research Center found that a 60 percent majority of Americans now say it is the federal government’s responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care coverage. Also, 33 percent of the public now favors such a “single-payer” approach to health insurance, according to Pew. That’s a 5 percentage point rise since January and 12 points since 2014.Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) unsuccessful presidential bid appears to have had great success in reversing the widespread demonization of single-payer health plans. I’m sure the jaw-dropping cruelty of the Grand Old Party’s alternatives has helped too.That’s probably not enough for us to expect single-payer to be enacted anytime soon, but there are more moderate alternatives, such as the “public option” that Congress removed during the original ACA debate. A public option would offer government-run insurance as an alternative to private-sector plans.Conservatives deplore the idea, saying a government plan could afford to run the private plans out of the market. Yet, I would ask, even if that’s true, why is competition a bad idea only when it offers more choices to low-wage earners?Politics is supposed to be the art of the possible. Here’s a great opportunity for Americans to figure out what’s possible and benefit from it before the zombies take over.Clarence Page is a syndicated columnist and member of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board.
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