Editorial Board

Hey, Congress, Smart Health-Care Reform Takes Time

Republicans appear to realize they can't delay an Obamacare replacement. Finding one will be slow.

Not so fast ... and not so easily.

Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

After some nudging from President-elect Donald Trump, Republicans in Congress may have changed their minds about repealing Obamacare without first deciding what will replace it.

QuickTake Obamacare

Here's the next hard truth they'll need to absorb: Rushing that decision, on the bogus premise that the current law is collapsing, is almost as foolhardy as providing no replacement.

Consider the amount of work and time that's involved. To begin, Republicans will have to answer the basic questions they have so far evaded -- mainly, are they serious about covering most of the 20 million or so Americans now insured under Obamacare? If so, how will they make that happen? And, no less important, how will they pay for it?

Those are hard questions. If they weren't, Republicans might have fashioned their answers years ago. Yet even after they do devise their conservative health-care system, their work will be far from finished.

Republicans then need to present their plan to doctors, hospitals, insurers, drugmakers and other participants in health care to ensure the law won't have unintended consequences, then make whatever changes are required. That's not horse trading; it's how to accomplish smart reform.

Finally, before they attempt to pass their new vision for U.S. health care, lawmakers should explain it to the American public -- whose support the Barack Obama administration famously, and disastrously, never managed to secure. And to make that process meaningful, Republicans will have to adapt their plan to reflect what the public tells them.

This process cannot be completed in a few short months. Having made health-care reform their own signature issue, Republicans should now proceed carefully and inclusively. A good first step would be to stop pretending that lasting reform can happen any other way.