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The prospects of a quick Obamacare repeal are sinking fast

- February 19, 2017

One of President Trump’s primary goals — and a long-standing priority of the Republican Party — is to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. On Thursday, House Republican leaders briefed members on aspects of their plan, but there is as yet no consensus on what the plan will ultimately contain.

Meanwhile, restive constituents are confronting members of Congress about the impact of a repeal. In Rep. Dave Brat’s (R-Va.) memorable phrase, “The women are in my grill no matter where I go.”

As part of our “Trump’s First 100 Days” forecasting tournament with Good Judgment, we have been asking forecasters about whether one controversial aspect of the ACA — the individual mandate — will be repealed before the end of April. Right before Trump’s inauguration, forecasters were at least somewhat bullish on the prospects of repeal, giving it a 65 percent chance.

But in the past two weeks, this has changed a lot:


There has been a 30-point drop in the probability that the individual mandate will be repealed by April 30, 2017. The current estimate is a 35 percent chance. As I noted a month ago, the 65 percent figure was about equal to Chris Webber’s free-throw percentage in the NBA. The new estimate is a little lower than the worst free-throw percentage in NBA history, that of Andre Drummond.

Of course, to advocates of the ACA, even a 1-in-3 chance may be “too high,” which is why continued efforts to be “up in grills” are planned for the coming congressional recess.

Nevertheless, the shift in the forecast is a large one, reflecting the challenges of agreeing on an alternative to the ACA and moving it through the labyrinthine legislative process while simultaneously having to spend substantial time confirming Trump’s Cabinet nominees. As Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) put it: “There seems to be a coalescing around principles; I don’t think it’s gotten deep in the weeds about what it will actually include yet.”

If the GOP wants to get this done in the first 100 days, they will need to spend a lot of time in the weeds.