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Obamacare forever

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., center, standing with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., right, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., left, speaks during a news conference on the American Health Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 7, 2017.
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., center, standing with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., right, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., left, speaks during a news conference on the American Health Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. AP

The biggest winner in Washington this week is former President Barack Obama, whose signature legacy is going to remain largely untouched by Republicans who are going so far as to keep the individual mandate. Of course, they will not call it that, but individuals will get a 30 percent penalty, i.e. a fine, if they do not keep insurance. That is the individual mandate in all but name. In fact, this is actually of questionable constitutionality because the government imposed fine would be paid to the insured person’s previous insurance company when they subsequently try to buy a new policy.

Gone? Most of the ways Obama paid for his health-care plan. In? A death panel for senior citizens. Under the Republican plan, senior citizens can be charged up to five times higher rates than young people who can enter an insurance plan with a pre-existing condition. By keeping the pre-existing conditions provision, which causes rates to increase, along with the permitted increase in senior citizen insurance costs, the Republicans will price a large number of seniors out of the insurance market.

To be sure, insurance companies should be able to charge whatever they want to charge, but requiring the pre-existing conditions coverage distorts the market and will harm seniors through even higher rates.

On top of it all, the GOP does not even want to phase out the Obamacare Medicaid expansion until 2020, which means they do not really want to get rid of it. By hinging the completely implemented changes on the next presidential election, the GOP looks to be making their rebranded Obamacare a campaign issue. Not only that, but the way they have structured it is designed to maximize an influx of new Medicaid recipients in the next three years, which guarantees it will never go away. Medicaid is the least effective, least efficient government entitlement program. But instead of fixing it, the Republicans will just expand it.

The bill’s structure suggests the GOP is catering to more moderate elements within the party and they are hoping conservatives will kill it. Then they can blame conservatives for the failure to repeal Obamacare. The Republican plan is best called Swampcare.

Trump supporters, however, should not be too concerned. President Trump promised a government-run health-care plan, and that is what this is — Obamacare in Republican face.

Republicans have a difficult problem. They have a slim majority in the Senate and have to cater to factions throughout the party. But trying to put spit and polish on Obamacare does not really repeal it as they promised. It seems more and more certain that Obamacare is here to stay.

If the GOP is so convinced Obamacare is going to collapse on its own, perhaps they should let it instead of repackaging Obamacare and owning the collapse. Doing nothing and passing this legislation are both breaking the promise Republicans made repeatedly to repeal Obamacare. But by doing nothing, Republicans at least can claim they never touched Obamacare. Should it collapse as they expect, they can shift blame to the Democrats.

Blame shifting is, of course, not leadership. But neither is the present legislation. It is an abdication of responsibility. Last week, walking through BassPro, two different Trump supporters stopped me to rail against this swampcare plan. They are convinced it is all Paul Ryan’s fault and President Trump will soon demand a better plan. Right now, though, it looks like President Trump is pressuring Republicans to pass this plan. The president, it seems, may be better at talking a good game than playing a good game.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.

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