Repealing the whole of Obamacare in the American Health Care Act was never an option, according to House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.
Virtually every Republican has run on a full repeal of Obamacare since 2010 — not the half-assed repeal that is the American Health Care Act. And yet …
"There was never a day where our conference was willing to leave people out in the cold," Scalise told The Washington Examiner Wednesday. "There were some people who wanted to get rid of the protections for pre-existing conditions," he explained, probably referring to the actual conservatives in the House. "We weren't going to go there. Our conference wasn't going to go there."
Here’s the problem — these so-called patient protections, mandated by the federal government, are causing the collapse of health insurance markets. These regulations are the reason that health insurance premiums keep increasing year after year. They’re why deductibles are so high. The expense of subsidizing health insurance for people who are already sick is forcing insurers to leave the marketplace.
When people complain about Obamacare’s affordability or its effects on their options, whether they know it or not, they are complaining about the patient protections Scalise says Republicans were never going to repeal.
Are government regulations the only solution to help people with preexisting conditions, as Scalise and other Republicans seem to believe? By no means! As CR Senior Editor Daniel Horowitz has explained before:
In reality, the pre-existing condition problem is the result of government intervention — both pre-and post-Obamacare. Thanks to years of state and federal regulations promulgated by the government-sponsored monopoly on health care and health insurance, there is no market to take care of pre-existing conditions Moreover, the lack of a national, portable insurance market untethered from government-induced employer-based insurance has prevented people from purchasing lifelong, portable plans when they are younger. As Professor John Cochrane discussed with me during my podcast on free market health care, an unregulated market would give birth to health-status insurance, which would work a lot like life insurance.
Coupled with many other ideas, the cumulative and compounding effect of breaking down state lines, ending coverage regulations, eliminating health insurance’s anti-trust exemption, expanding Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), and providing equal tax treatment — all ideas supposedly championed by [Speaker Paul] Ryan himself — will encourage young people to purchase individual insurance at a cheaper rate when they are younger and keep it portable with them for life (much like those who purchase cheap life insurance when they are younger). At the same time, it will drive down prices, foster maximum national choice and competition, and achieve actuarial solvency. Such a climate will make it more advantageous to convert Medicaid to vouchers so that poorer consumers can purchase a quality plan in the private market and slow the growth of health care spending for taxpayers. All of this will isolate and limit the scope of the pre-existing condition problem and shore up more funds to deal with the minimized scope of the problem.
We can repeal the entirety of Obamacare — patient “protections” and all — and still create policies that will help people with preexisting conditions and make health insurance markets function for every American.
But Republicans have been unwilling to do that. They lied to voters when they said they would repeal Obamacare. And as a result, the future of the American health care system is at risk of devolving into a single-payer program when Republicans — after breaking their promise time and again — are eventually wiped out electorally.