Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson conceded on Monday that the battle to fully repeal Obamacare had been lost and Republicans should now "start talking about transitioning." Johnson, who made his remarks to National Review, also gave a lukewarm endorsement to state-based health insurance exchanges, a keystone of the Affordable Care Act.
"How do you repeal?" he asked. "Yeah, you can get rid of the law, but what do you do with what’s already there?"
One element that is already there, at least in states run by Democrats, is the insurance exchange, where consumers can compare competing plans. Most Republican-run states have refused to set up their own exchanges, leaving it to the federal government's Healthcare.gov website instead.
"Am I opposed to state-based exchanges? No," he said. "It may be that they can be usable."
Johnson's endorsement of exchanges marks a completed circle for the GOP. The original idea for such marketplaces was pushed by the conservative Heritage Foundation and was the foundation of Romneycare in Massachusetts, before Republicans turned universally against the idea.
"I’m all for repeal," Johnson said, "But it’s there. What do you do with what’s there?... We’ve got to start talking about the reality of the situation."
Johnson made his remarks during a visit to National Review's New York office. (Politicians in both parties routinely travel to New York for fundraising purposes.)