There was no single focal point for world media last week. Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA, popularly known as Obamacare) occupied the columns of American newspapers, while the authoritarian drift in Poland caught the attention of media in Europe.
The New York Times said the collapse of the Senate health care bill and Mitch McConnell’s plan to repeal much of Obamacare without a replacement came as a huge relief to millions of Americans.
In an editorial, the paper said: “Under the humane approach, with a stronger health care system a shared goal, Republicans and Democrats would work together to fix the marketplace problems and restore confidence among insurance companies. In counties with no insurers, Congress could require the Federal Employees Health Benefits Programme to offer coverage. State governments, working with the Trump administration, could create reinsurance programmes to reduce the risk that insurers would lose money because of a few very sick patients.”
The Los Angeles Times echoed the New York Times’ sentiments saying that millions of American can thank a handful of courageous moderates in the Senate Republican Caucus for being unwilling to repeal the ACA without having a replacement ready.
“Merely stopping bad legislation, however, won’t solve the problems that helped to drive the “repeal and replace” effort this year... At least some of these problems resulted directly from the crippling uncertainties created by Republican policymakers, the paper said in an editorial.
“President [Donald] Trump has now called on Congress to “let Obamacare fail,”... The responsible thing to do would be to shore up the markets created by the ACA for individual policies. This needs to be done soon, given that insurers have to set their offerings and rates for 2018 within the next couple of months,” it added.
The Chicago Tribune said the fate of sustaining or replacing Obamacare now likely depends on the outcome of 2018 congressional elections.
“Voters are now armed with far more information about the costs and complications of overhauling Obamacare. They’ve seen the Congressional Budget Office predictions of how many people would lose coverage, and heard from experts about how various proposed provisions would unfetter insurers and drive down premiums. They’ve learnt how bringing Medicaid under cost controls would save billions but also affect those now on its rolls,” the paper said in an editorial.
“Maybe in the next months we’ll see a chastened Senate majority coalesce around an Obamacare replacement that isn’t yet in public discussion. We’d like to think that smart senators have been conferring and can yet this year come together on a fix,” the paper added.
The political manoeuvres in Poland came in for withering criticism. The Irish Times came down heavily on the socially conservative, Euro-sceptic and nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, which has steadily dismantled judicial oversight, brought the independent prosecutor’s office under government control, made it easier for the state to spy on its own citizens and turned the public broadcaster into a propaganda outlet.
“First it [EU] should use its power to initiate infringement proceedings over Poland’s assault on the separation of powers. Then it should make clear that when talks begin on how to share out the smaller EU subsidy pie post-Brexit, respect for the EU’s fundamental values will be a non-negotiable prerequisite,” the paper said in an editorial.
The Observer called the decision by Poland’s upper house of parliament to give the government de facto control of the country’s highest court is a serious mistake with negative implications for Europe.
“The legislation compromises judicial independence and undermines confidence in the rule of law free from political interference. It deals a heavy blow to Poland’s far from robust post-communist democratic institutions... Poland’s leaders should also be clear that, in a world where attacks on judicial independence are only too common, they must not look beyond Europe for support or justification,” the paper said.