Promises Made, Promises Broken: Obamacare-Lite Strikes Out
Republicans finally have the ball in their court. The question is, will they make the right play? Or, will they fall flat on their faces?
The American Health Care Act. Trumpcare. Obamacare Lite.
Whatever you call it, the Obamacare replacement bill put forth by House Republicans is nothing more than a watered-down version of the Affordable Care Act.
President Donald Trump’s long awaited repeal and replacement of Obamacare has been discernibly denounced by Democrat and Republican politicos alike. On the left, Dems point out how the bill will impact millions as they are left without access to healthcare, while Republicans argue the bill does not go far enough in repealing Obamacare.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, in appealing to Republican dissidents of the AHCA, stated that supporting the bill is a “binary choice,” and that GOP lawmakers can “take it or leave it.” The reality, however, may not be so black and white.
The AHCA has drawn sharp criticism from more conservative members congress, such as Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). Paul has come out among the fiercest opponents of what he has dubbed “Obamacare Lite.”
The AHCA will keep in place Obamacare taxes for a year. It keeps a 40 percent excise tax on high-cost employer health benefit plans, known as the Cadillac Tax, in place indefinitely. Obamacare subsidies are kept, merely renamed “refundable tax credits.” Worst of all, the AHCA keeps in place the widely-opposed individual mandate, meaning if one does not purchase insurance, they must pay a penalty. However, rather than paying penalties to the federal government, under the AHCA, penalties would be paid to insurance companies. The mandate has been especially strenuous on small businesses, who many times must decide whether to give their employees health insurance, or cut back on staff.
The average family’s annual health care premiums on employer-sponsored plans under Obamacare have increased by more than $5,000. These hikes are a direct result of the Obamacare individual mandate. Unsurprisingly, the largest problem conservatives have with the new bill is the presence of the individual mandate. Without completely slashing the mandate, premiums remain at astronomical levels, and healthcare remains unaffordable for many Americans.
The bill the American people were presented with is not the bill we were promised. What the American people were promised was a full repeal of Obamacare.
By keeping in place the individual mandate and subsidies for insurance companies, congressional Republicans are signaling a disconnect between themselves and the constituents that elected them.
The GOP now controls all branches of the federal government, the majority of state legislatures and the majority of governorships. Over the past seven years, Republican candidates have ran on the promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare as central to their campaigns. The victories Republicans experienced in 2010, 2014 and 2016 could be undone swiftly in the 2018 midterms if the Republican leadership refuses to compromise on this bill.
Senator Paul stated in a recent CNN interview that most Republicans agree “on the repeal part of [Obamacare].” The disagreement is in regards to replacement. In order for the new bill to pass successfully, the GOP must separate repeal from replace in two separate bills.
The aim of this new bill should be to provide the greatest amount of people with access to health insurance at the most affordable possible price. It is utterly impossible under the AHCA.
Here’s what the GOP needs to do:
-Lower insurance premiums by eliminating the individual mandate altogether.
-Open up healthcare to the free-market in order to drive down costs.
-Expand healthcare savings accounts.
-Expand health care associations, buying associations in which citizens can buy insurance through various organizations, such as AARP or the NRA, in order to lower costs.
-End bailouts and subsidies for insurance companies.
The debate over healthcare is not “binary” as Speaker Ryan claims it to be. A marketable solution will require lawmakers from both parties come together and collaborate on a solution that will benefit all Americans.
If our leaders honestly wish to fix the problems of Obamacare, Obamacare Lite is a poor place to start. If they keep on this path, Republican leadership will be out of the game before it even begins.
-Matt “OB” O’Brien