On Monday in these pages, David Catron filled our readers in about a most excellent plan by Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to institute a Republican response to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more accurately known as Obamacare. This column will bring to light another Republican bill, the Patient Freedom Act to be rolled out Thursday at the Hudson Institute by its author, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).
The two bills are complementary. Cassidy calls them cousins. Both provide an aggressive political response to Obamacare without the kind of aggressive policymaking the Democrats’ utopian mishmash of mandates, taxes, and subsidies inflicted on the public.
Obamacare is collapsing. This we know. When it was passed, the Democrats hoped to ride out the initial resistance to their turning the health care industry on its head and survive on the inertia of so comprehensive a bill working its way through the public’s experience. But that has not happened. Obamacare has never polled well, the gradualist nature of its rollout has produced a series of fresh, unpleasant revelations, and it has run afoul of the courts again and again.
In the latter category of setbacks, the Supreme Court’s coming decision in King v. Burwell could prove to be the death of Obamacare. It’s expected that in that case the Court will throw out the administration’s practice of awarding subsidies to Obamacare customers living in the 37 states without their own health care exchanges — a decision that would subject some eight million Americans to $24 billion in premium increases and expose them to the real performance of health insurance, Democrat Party-style.
And thanks to Obamacare’s hardship exemption, the loss of subsidies in those 37 states for Americans with lower incomes will effectively eliminate the mandate to purchase health insurance for all the people who, prior to Obamacare, made the choice to forego health insurance for economic reasons in the first place. And if poor people are no longer mandated to purchase health insurance, it’s a matter of time before the middle class and the rich will demand their own freedom.
Another way to describe it would be to say King v. Burwell will leave Obamacare in ruins. Without the program of mandates and subsidies it put in place, Obamacare is nothing but an unworkable expansion of the federal role in health care — a series of nonsensical and intrusive regulations choking the market and irritating the majority of Americans forced to deal with it. In the long term, the public will certainly call for full repeal of what’s left, though what comes after Obamacare could be even worse if the wrong people happen to be in charge. Hillarycare, anyone?
That’s why the GOP needs to be waiting with something to replace Obamacare. “Let it burn” would be a good idea if the Democrats controlled Congress, but the fact that, largely because of Obamacare, the 2010 and 2014 midterm blowouts created Republican majorities in both houses of Congress imposes a larger burden. There is wide agreement in Washington that simply allowing King v. Burwell to trash the subsidies, and mandates along with them, without providing some element of relief to the affected consumers, will make the GOP look heartless and cruel once the media is finished with its work. So instead of the Democrats being held accountable by the voters for unilaterally forcing an unworkable plan down the nation’s throat and then illegally implementing that plan in an effort to hide its defects from the American people, the failure of Obamacare will somehow be the GOP’s burden.
And since we’re well aware that the GOP is known as The Stupid Party, that scenario will, in fact, play out during the 2016 presidential election year as things stand. And without a market solution in place, the Democrats will sell full-on “single payer” socialized medicine as the cure-all. Hillarycare, anyone?
The aforementioned Cassidy bill, like the more comprehensive Price bill in the House, would offer a chance to escape the Obamacare trap the GOP shouldn’t be in. Essentially, Cassidy would wipe out all the federal mandates — for insurance coverage, for 30-hour work weeks, for the types of conditions to be covered, and so on — for Americans in states choosing to drop them. Meaning that in the 36 states that refused to set up health care exchanges, and in the 39 states where Republicans control at least one house of the state legislature, the odds are good that at the state level the choice will be made to essentially opt out of Obamacare and craft one’s own solution to health insurance.
Some 72 senators hail from states where Obamacare subsidies will disappear when King v. Burwell is decided. Those senators will be demanding a solution. And Republicans across the country are making a clear demand to Congress not to simply cut a check to restore those subsidies — which would be tantamount to a Republican endorsement of the president’s disastrous plan. A recent poll shows that 65 percent of Republican voters want no action to save Obamacare if the subsidies were to collapse, though Americans as a whole do favor some form of bailout.
Passing Cassidy’s bill, which would also incentivize Americans with a tax credit for commencing a health savings account and instituting a requirement of publication of cash prices for health care procedures to reintroduce consumer price sensitivity as a factor in health care, allows the GOP to escape the coming dilemma of its own voters demanding a “let it burn” approach while the public at large clamors for a bailout. That’s a bad political place for the party to be in, and an unnecessary one.
Of course, both Cassidy’s plan and Price’s plan, which contains a lot of the traditional bells and whistles like interstate insurance competition, face the threat of an Obama veto. The president is going to demand a “clean” Obamacare bailout; anything else will lead to the destruction of his legacy. What’s required is enough sand from the Republican leadership to deny a “clean” bailout to a failed, lame-duck president. The bills by Cassidy and Price, either together or separately, should be the price of Obama’s failure on health care.
This requires buy-in from the House and Senate leadership, in order to move the bills. So far neither has received such backing. And so far, there is no evidence that the GOP in Congress is willing to speak in one voice to properly lambaste Obama and his party for the destruction they’ve wrought on the health insurance market.
It’s time for the Stupid Party to smarten up.