July 14, 2017

Senate Reveals Latest Health Plan; Is It DOA?

Republicans are still at odds over various aspects of repealing ObamaCare. And it may sink Version 2.0.

Senate Republicans released their revised plan for replacing ObamaCare on Thursday, and it now awaits analysis by the Congressional Budget Office before a vote possibly next week. The questions began immediately — specifically whether it has enough Republican votes (hint: probably not). Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) guardedly offered support given that the legislation contains a version of an amendment they presented. The Cruz-Lee amendment would allow insurance companies to offer “bare-bones” plans that don’t meet the current “Affordable” Care Act’s comprehensive coverage requirements as long as they also offered plans that did. Cruz did warn, however, that the bill “will not have the votes to go forward if there are not meaningful protections for consumer freedom that significantly lower premiums.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) opposes the bill, calling it “ObamaCare Lite.”

Meanwhile, several centrist Republicans have threatened to pull their support even though their demands have been met. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), for example, always the thorn in conservatives’ sides, has declared her opposition. And several Republicans have begun discussions with Democrats on working toward a bipartisan health plan, which is sure to only increase the tension between conservative and centrist Republicans. Not to mention that Democrats have no intention of fixing anything, let alone repealing it.

So what’s in the plan, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA)?

Like the House Republicans’ plan, the Senate bill eliminates the ObamaCare mandate, freeing individuals to opt out of purchasing health insurance. Instead, it incentivizes people to retain an insurance plan or face paying higher premiums upon returning. It keeps guaranteed insurance for those with pre-existing conditions, a concession to political reality. It repeals taxes on prescription and over-the-counter drugs and medical devices, though in another concession to the moderates, it retains ObamaCare’s 3.8% tax on investment income — a tax-and-spend provision to fund subsidies. The Senate bill offers one particularly intriguing element: allowing Americans to pay health insurance premiums using pre-tax income via health savings accounts. Best of all, the GOP bill brings desperately needed reforms to Medicaid, granting individual states greater control over how to best spend federal funds, as well as addressing inequity concerns with federal payouts for the program. The Wall Street Journal argues that this reform is “the main reason it is still worth passing,” because the spending “discipline will save $772 billion over 10 years.”

It still looks like the tug-of-war to repeal and replace ObamaCare is far from over. Is it a perfect plan? By no means, but it is indeed a step in the right direction, out of that burning building known as ObamaCare. Once again — and it can’t be emphasized enough — Republicans are trying to clean up a Democrat-created disaster that has massively damaged the American health care system.

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