I had hoped that the Senate, toiling away in secrecy, would toss out the crap sandwich of the House bill and replace it with something shiny and new that I could really get behind.
No such luck. The “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” is mostly the same crap sandwich, with some of the crust trimmed off. As I wrote about the House bill last month, this bill, or something like it, would wreck healthcare and ensure Democratic ascendency, in the same way that Obamacare strip mined the Democratic majority in the House and Senate.
It’s not quite a total loss. It did move in the right direction to fix some of the problems I had pointed out in the House bill, such as restoring tax credits based on income rather than age (I never got an explanation for that). But of course it fell far short of providing reasonable tax credits.
As for pre-existing conditions, the main issue that tortured the public discussion of the House bill, the Senate appears to have just given up and is keeping the Obamacare requirement. So after all the trouble, when it comes to pre-existing conditions, it’s Obamacare after all.
Although there’s no CBO score on the bill yet, it will probably come out similarly to the House Bill since it keeps much of the same structure for slowing Medicaid Expansion and although I’ve already criticized the way the CBO score was arrived at, it won’t matter in terms of a Democratic talking point; 26 million will lose their healthcare. You’ll hear it all over cable news until the vote, then in campaign ads for the 2018 election.
How to solve this issue? Here is the difference between politicians and regular people; I can conceive of a fairly simple answer that would never occur to a professional, and it’s not one I’ve yet heard either in public policy articles or blathering about on cable news.
Consider: There are about 14 and a half million people covered under the Medicaid expansion from Obamacare. You can criticize Medicaid all you want in terms of studies on health outcomes or availability of providers, but if you’re on it, it’s free (to you). There are no premiums, deductibles, or copays. So even if you provide market alternatives to that, none of them are going to be as cheap to the patient as free Medicaid is. People being kicked off Medicaid will generate stories for years for the Democrats. There will be no end to the number of hard luck stories (and the children! Think of the children!). That will fill nightly news and newspaper stories for years to come.
So just let those people keep Medicaid.
That’s it. No complicated policy issue or complicated public/private program. Just allow the people who are currently covered by the Medicaid expansion, as long as they meet their income eligibility, keep their Medicaid healthcare. It’s not a new entitlement since it won’t be open to any new applicants; it will just cover those who currently have it. Eventually those numbers will shrink, either by people improving their lot and exceeding the income eligibility, or worst case, aging into Medicare.
Will it cost money? Yes, but frankly, the Republicans seem to be under some sort of delusion that they can turn health care into a tax cutting bill. I don’t see how that’s realistic. At some point they are going to have to realize that the bill is going to have to be revenue neutral.
More importantly, this buys time to fix what’s ailing in the individual insurance market. Obamacare has wrecked and nearly destroyed the individual insurance market and I don’t think that’s going to be fixed on the day of a bill signing. This will probably take years, so the fewer people in that market, to buy time and give reforms time to work, the better