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July 10, 2017

Cruz and Lee Offer a Key Health Reform Amendment

Lowering costs must be a primary element of Republican efforts. Did the senators hit the mark?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fired a shot across the bow of his fellow Republicans last week — either repeal ObamaCare or start fixing it. Of course, his point is that ObamaCare is such a disaster that fixing it is unlikely to, well, fix anything.

Enter Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. The pair of conservative leaders, as part of their “Path to ‘Yes’” initiative, offered a significant amendment to the Senate’s health reform bill called the Consumer Freedom Option. In short, Cruz explained, “The ‘Consumer Freedom Option’ simply says that if an insurance company sells in a given state a plan that is consistent with the [ObamaCare] Title I mandates, that company can also sell any other insurance plan consumers desire.” Currently, all health insurance plans must comply unless they are grandfathered.

Cruz added, “What this will allow is OK, fine, you want to keep your [ObamaCare] mandates? Knock yourself out with your mandates, but in addition to mandates, let’s let Texans buy the plans they want, let’s let Texans buy the benefits they want, and let’s let them get lower prices so that more families who are struggling can actually afford health insurance.”

Indeed, one of the main reasons that Democrats’ repeated promises of lowered premiums was a bald-faced lie is that forcing everyone, including older and sicker Americans, to buy health insurance that covers a lengthy list of required services is going to be really expensive. Scratch that — it has been really expensive, as we can attest. Lowering health insurance costs should be one of the primary goals and communication points for Republicans. They must explain how they’re going to save Americans money if they’re going to move the ball downfield on repealing and replacing the monstrously deceptive “Affordable” Care Act.

The question is whether the Cruz/Lee amendment does this in the best way. James Capretta of the American Enterprise Institute says it does not. He writes, “The primary problem in American health care is not that too many healthy people have to subsidize the premiums of the unhealthy; it’s that too many Americans are largely insulated from the cost of care they receive through expansive third-party insurance payments covered by employer-provided plans and Medicare. These consumers never really participate in any meaningful way in the health-care marketplace. They get the services they believe they need, and their insurers pay the bills.”

Republicans must offer a plan dictated by the free market. Cruz and Lee aim to do this, but the debate is over whether they hit the mark.

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