Murkowski takes sensible health care stand; Sullivan doesn’t

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has provided a reasonable direction out of the health care mess — hold public hearings and build a consensus between Republicans and Democrats with analysis to defend the results.

This is straightforward and logical. It is an approach with a real chance of lasting long after the next change in the balance of power in Washington, D.C.

But dozens of others in the Republican Party, including Sen. Dan Sullivan, would rather perpetuate the secret process that has created chaos, all in defense of the simple-minded campaign slogan, "repeal and replace."

Early this week, with the secret "replace" part again on the rocks, Sullivan endorsed the "repeal" part, which would lead to a victory party with all the staying power of a Trump tweetstorm.

But by late Thursday, "replace" was reunited with "repeal," The Washington Post reported, but no one could say if R&R would still be the GOP plan in the days ahead.

[Murkowski, Sullivan hope for a path forward on health care bill]

As a welcome relief to that nonsense, Murkowski said the Senate should "take a step back and engage in a bipartisan process to address the failures of the ACA (Affordable Care Act) and stabilize the individual markets."

"That will require members on both sides of the aisle to roll up their sleeves and take this to the open committee process where it belongs," she said.

"Repealing the ACA without a clear path forward just creates confusion and greater uncertainty," she said.

Sullivan, who has in effect now endorsed the end of Medicaid expansion after many months of refusing to make a public declaration, says that repeal is the next best thing to repeal and replace.

No, it's worse. It would create chaos and confusion in the insurance market in Alaska and every other state. It would deprive 32 million people of health insurance by 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The CBO estimates that premiums would shoot up, subsidies would disappear and the individual insurance market would end in areas with about half of the nation's population by 2020. The report doesn't say so, but it's a good bet that Alaska would be in that category.

Sullivan says that he supports repeal to fulfill the campaign promise he made in 2014, as if a three-word slogan reflects the complex world of health care, insurance and federal policy in the United States.

It doesn't reflect anything more than a mindless chant. It's time to swallow the slogan and fix the problems with "Obamacare," which can't be done by repealing the law.

The promise is that only after the law is repealed — with 54,000 Alaskans losing health care coverage in a couple of years — will Congress be able to decide a health care policy.

Promises are hard to keep because trust is in short supply.

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson said he has heard that Sen. Mitch McConnell has been telling senators who support Medicaid expansion to not worry about the future severe cuts promised in the bill, because they will never happen.

It doesn't help that the president of the United States, leading the Republican Party, has established himself as one of the most uninformed public officials in the history of health care.

He creates chaos and uncertainty with every fictitious utterance, whether it's that nobody knew health care was so complicated or his repeated statements that health insurance costs consumers $12 or $15 a year. He hasn't even bothered to learn enough to appear to know something.

What people in Alaska and every other state want is a reduction in the cost of health care, something that every politician promises. The White House and Congress aren't doing anything to deliver.

Columnist Dermot Cole can be reached at 

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