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Former Obamacare advisor on the stalled repeal bill: 'The real deadline is August'

We spoke to a number of experts for our story on the stalled progress of the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act, which is meant to repeal and replace Obamacare, and got more insights than we could fit from Chris Dawe, former Obamacare policy advisor with the White House’s National Economic Council, now vice-president of Evolent Health in Washington, D.C. So here’s some of his contribution:

"Mitch McConnell is using the same playbook as [Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.]: Create a sense of urgency around the bill getting passed, get a product out there and get a reaction. If it doesn’t work the first time, it exposes people to the feeling of failure. The real deadline is August; there’ll be a long delay if they fail then.
"The challenge is they haven’t locked down the conservatives, [Utah Senator Mike] Lee, [Wisconsin Senator Ron] Johnson and to an extent [Texas Senator Ted] Cruz. It looks to me like they have some work to do to convince them. And then there’s [North Carolina Representative] Mark Meadows and the Freedom Caucus in the House, if they pass a more moderate bill.
"I think there’s a chance they can’t do anything as ambitious as what they’ve been working on. It’s conventional wisdom that it’s worse for them if they don’t pass it… Everyone assumes that’ll be the end of them if they don’t deliver. But they thought that about Obamacare. But they got Obamacare done -- and then everyone got turned out of office.
"Maybe McConnell’s just putting on a good face on things, and will move off health care and blame Democrats. If they get desperate – if markets are collapsing – maybe then they’ll move to a bipartisan bill.
"Republicans keep going big – they either succeed or fail miserably. Notwithstanding Trump’s comments about letting it all collapse, these people feel a responsibility to govern. It wouldn’t go as far as the Cassidy-Collins [health care alternative]. Neither side actually wants that. If the current bill fails, Democrats will feel like they have a lot of leverage [to hold out for Obamacare-plus]. But after the midterm, if they’re still having issues, they’ll need to do something dramatic."

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