Obamacare is often referred to as a three-legged stool: Americans must buy health insurance, insurers must sell them generous benefits without discriminating and the government provides subsidies to help pay for it all. Using that metaphor, let's consider how Senate Republicans have struggled to pass an Obamacare repeal bill over the past two days.
First, Republicans tried to chop off all three legs with a bill replacing much of the Affordable Care Act. That failed Tuesday night.
Then, they tried to chop off just the first and third legs -- the individual mandate to have coverage and the subsidies -- in a repeal-only bill that failed yesterday.
Now, they're down to a third potential option: Chop off just one leg -- the individual mandate -- and leave the stool lopsided.
No. 3 Senate Republican John Thune said yesterday that they're "edging closer and closer" to 50 votes for this "skinny repeal" option, my colleagues Juliet Eilperin, Kelsey Snell and Sean Sullivan report. Details are still emerging, and could always change quickly, but the aim is to pass a bill repealing just the ACA's individual and employer mandates, its medical device tax and its public-health fund. Funding for extra Obamacare subsidies for cost-sharing discounts may be attached, too, and the legislation may also retain a provision blocking Medicaid reimbursements from Planned Parenthood clinics.
Once passed, the bill could be sent to a conference committee where members of the House and Senate could hash out an agreement. Leaders are betting Republican senators who defected on other votes this week would feel enough pressure at that point to support whatever the final measure looks like. Kaiser Family Foundation senior vice president Larry Levitt noted that it could look very different from "skinny repeal:"