Absent a major intervention from Trump or Pence, Republicans have no intention of repealing Obamacare. It’s that simple. In fact, they are repealing the repeal of Obamacare. In a matter of a few weeks, in a shocking display of political black magic, Republicans managed to shift the focus away from the destruction wrought by Obamacare to the speculative problems of repealing Obamacare.
Watching the second confirmation hearing of Tom Price, R-Ga. (D, 62%) before the Senate Finance Committee, one could easily discern the diffidence in the voices of Price and Senate Republicans. They accepted almost every premise of the Left on health care philosophy and even vouched for the guaranteed issue mandate that is most responsible for driving up premiums and destroying choice and competition in the market.
Was it really hard for Price to tell Democrats that of course it’s a terrible idea to take “insurance” out of insurance, throw people off their insurance, triple premiums, destroy $19 billion in wages, eliminate 300,000 jobs, and prevent the startup of 10,000 businesses? According the Heritage Foundation, 70% of the counties in this country now have only one or two insurers left! That is the result of this meretricious idea of guaranteed issue. Where is the compassion in creating a death spiral that will permanently raise costs to a crushing level, ensure that individuals can’t afford insurance, and force entrepreneurs to shut down businesses due to the crushing health care burden?
The GOP reluctance to repeal Obamacare is now palpable. Pursuant to the budget resolution Congress passed earlier this month, four House and Senate committees (Senate HELP, Senate Finance, House Energy & Commerce, House Ways and Means) were tasked with reporting a budget reconciliation bill by January 27 that would repeal the law. With just a few days left there is no sign of even preliminary action taken by the committees. News reports indicate that these committees won’t have anything ready until mid-to-late February.
Why the reluctance and equivocation?
It’s clear that Republican leaders have no intention to repeal the main insurance regulations of Obamacare and pursue simple free market ideas. Thus, they are twisted into knots trying to find excuses not to repeal the law but come up with some sort of package that gives the veneer of reform.
One such plan introduced this week was the “if you like the insolvent Obamacare, you can keep it” plan offered by Senators Bill Cassidy, R-La. (F, 47%) and Susan Collins, R-Maine (F, 10%). Here are the key elements:
- It absolutely keeps most of the insurance regulations that are solely responsible for jacking up premiums and blocking out choice and competition. It also maintains the tax increases and the zombie “private” exchanges.
- While repealing the individual mandate and the subsidies, this bill creates a new and massive government-run scheme to cover a commensurate amount of subsidies.
- The individual mandate is replaced with an auto-enrollment scheme in which the federal government subsidizes insurance companies to cover the uninsured, even people who never asked for insurance. The subsidies will further encourage insurance companies to raise rates on top of the increases engendered by the regulations, rather than innovate and offer cheaper options.
- Even the repeal of the subsidies isn’t really repeal because states would be allowed to keep the subsidies if they wanted. And while the plan does offer HSAs, they can only be used for government-run plans similar to … Obamacare.
The outcome of this plan would be to subsidize the same amount of people at the record high prices created by not fixing the insurance market and abolishing the mandates. It would continue the same unsustainable death spiral of regulations, taxes, and subsidies, while doing nothing to move health insurance and health care into a free market that is consumer-centered.
While this plan might be slightly to the left of where most Republicans are headed, it reflects that basic premise adopted by Republicans of pursuing utopian universal coverage at the expense of lowering prices and increasing competition. Moreover, Sen. Bill Cassidy is one of the leaders McConnell, R-Ky. (F, 40%) has relied on for health care policy.
The bottom line is we can compromise on the degree of subsidies and Medicaid expansion if that is the price to pay for GOP ignorance of free markets and political malpractice of messaging. But there is no way to compromise on getting rid of the insurance regulations and unlocking a normal market for those who want to live free of government, purchase affordable insurance, and obtain access to quality care. However, to add a scheme of subsidies and anti-market forces to over-utilize insurance on top of the regulations is to repeat the very unsustainable death spiral of Obamacare.
This attempt to offer the palest of pale pastel differences from Democrats would be funny if it didn’t affect one-sixth of our economy and ensure that American families can never live with dignity without unaffordable and unsustainable government-run healthcare.
No Republican ran on this chicanery.