Donald Trump's response to the defeat of the GOP's health care bill was straightforward: "Let Obamacare implode." In the early hours of Friday, July 28, the president tweeted about the "skinny repeal" vote. Here's what he had to say after the deciding health care vote in the Senate:
Trump's response is both new and old. New, because it's his latest comment on health care. Old, because he's said it before.
On numerous occasions, the president has indeed suggested he'd let Obamacare will collapse on its own if a repeal bill was not passed. Earlier this month, he told reporters,
We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We'll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us.
The suggestion is that if the president does nothing to tend to health care issues, there will be more support the next time Republicans want to pass a bill, because Obamacare's problems would get worse.
The issue with that idea, though, is obvious: Obamacare's problems would get worse. If it does, that inevitably means consequences for people who rely on it.
Even the Senate's GOP leader, Mitch McConnell, who has practically been campaigning against the Affordable Care Act for seven years, has pushed back against a "let it die" strategy. Earlier this month, McConnell said,
If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to the private health insurance market must occur. No action is not an alternative.
McConnell's words point at a simple reality. Regardless of how the president or Republicans feel about the presiding health care law, it's still law. "No action" not being an alternative -- as McConnell said -- means that in the absence of a repeal effort, which failed earlier this morning, there's a responsibility to fix the law.
Furthermore, because of the terms of the law, the president's administration as the power to influence it. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) still has a budget designated for advertising Obamacare. Lately, however, reports indicated that HHS had been using some of that money to campaign against Obamacare.
That's just one, very simple, example of how the Trump administration can influence Obamacare. However, there are other, more complex means that the administration can take to affect the law, positively or negatively.
That's because, of course, former president Barack Obama helped craft the law in a way that grants a president that influence. Unless Obamacare is repealed, which is has not been, the terms of the law are still in place.
So, the bottom line is straightforward. The Trump administration has the means to make an effort to tend to Obamacare. Without a repeal of Obamacare, an effort to "let it die" means willingly avoiding those means to make health care better.