Former House Speaker John Boehner has been on a media tour for a bit, touting a book which is debuting at No. 1 on the New York Times list. The top House Republican during the Obama years, Boehner has apparently been keeping up with most of the political goings-on of Washington D.C., commenting in several interviews about the state of the Republican Party.
During these interviews, Boehner has really gone after folks like Marjorie Taylor Greene and, presumably, Matt Gaetz, hinting at how he’d run them out of town if he were still in the House.
I’d bring these members in to the office and look them in the eye and determine what the truth was or try to determine what the truth was. And if I thought somebody was guilty of horrendous behavior, I told them. You’ve got one hour. One hour to go and bring your letter of resignation, or I’m going to go to the floor and move to expel you. When these members get in trouble, it tarnishes all the members of Congress. It’s frankly not fair to the members. And the quicker the leaders deal with it, the better off they are.
There are some other gems among these interviews and the excerpts from the book that have become public.
One of the under-reported things that Boehner discusses in his book, however, is the absurd claim that the Affordable Care Act is really mostly done away with at this point.
A revealing little part of Boehner's book I haven't seen in reviews is that he claims, twice, that Obamacare is mostly gone. "Today, there’s not much left of Obamacare," and "there really isn't much of Obamacare left." Reads like unsuccessful self-hypnosis.
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) April 13, 2021
This is… really absurd.
It’s really difficult to try to understand what, exactly, Boehner is trying to claim here. Is he trying to claim that the individual mandate is gone? Because it hasn’t been repealed, Congress just set the “tax” rate at zero. In fact, despite being in power in the House and Senate, the Republicans couldn’t get anything more than that done.
Maybe he mistakenly believes that we don’t allow young people up to age 25 to stay on their parents’ health insurance? I dunno why he’d think that, because we didn’t even come close to touching that one. Multiple states have expanded Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act, and the Biden administration is still trying to build on that, so clearly that isn’t what Boehner was referring to in his book, either.
It’s possible he thinks that some of the major handouts to big businesses, like the pharmaceutical companies, are gone. That’s certainly not the case. The good news on that front is one of the biggest issues, the orphan drug program*, is the subject of bipartisan legislation that is meant to help rural health centers struggling to obtain much-needed drugs.
With the courts effectively blocking HHS from addressing this problem, members of Congress stepped up to lead the fight. Earlier this year, Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and David McKinley (R-W.V.) introduced legislation to limit the orphan drug exclusion to a drug’s orphan purpose and allow rural and cancer hospitals to access 340B pricing for orphan drugs when used for non-orphan purposes.
So… what exactly is Boehner referring to? It’s not very clear. Practically every aspect of the Affordable Care Act is still active and barely touched by Congress when it was in Republicans’ hands. I’m not sure if it’s wishful thinking or Boehner being more out of the loop than he cares to admit, but the assertion that it’s mostly gone is just absurd.
*The orphan drug issue is kind of complex and in the weeds, but the link above explains it really well. The short version is this: There are drugs designated by the FDA to be used only for a certain, specific disease, but there are off-label uses that doctors frequently use them for. The problem is the Affordable Care Act contains a loophole that lowers drug prices except for orphan drugs. This makes it much more expensive and rural hospitals don’t have always have the resources to pay full price for an expensive orphan drug used to treat other conditions.