I’ve been waiting a while for Steve Scalise’s press conference, but I don’t think I need to wait any longer. This afternoon, he is gong to present the Republican Study Committee’s “alternative” to Obamacare. The reason I don’t have to wait is that I’ve always known what their alternative is: the same conservative wish list that they always want. Bruce Alpert at nola.com provides us with a preview, Rep. Scalise’s Conservative Caucus Presents Alternative to ObamaCare.
The main thing that the Republicans are offering is high risk pools to cover people with pre-existing conditions. This is the perfect conservative policy. You see, it seems to fix a problem without really doing it. The high risk pools are more or less the answer for the problems faced by rich people with pre-existing conditions. So people with pre-existing conditions can go to these high risk pools, but most won’t be able to afford them. Brilliant.
The next idea is to “increase competition” by allowing people to buy insurance across state lines. All this will do is cause all the insurance companies to relocate in the state that has the least regulation—just like now happens in the credit card industry. Aaron Carroll explains what the end result would be, “What we would have is a world where it would be likely cheaper for those who don’t need health care to get insurance. For everyone else, especially those who need care, insurance would be more expensive, and care harder to obtain.” That’s a typical reverse Robin Hood kind of policy: take from those in need and give to those not in need.
The plan also includes health savings accounts (HSAs). They allow people to buy high deductible insurance policies at reasonable prices while having tax deferred savings accounts to pay for everything up to the deductible. The problem is that for a plan with say a $2,000 deductible, you will still be paying over $100 per month—most likely much more. That’s not a great deal when you consider that more than half of the uninsured will be able to buy a normal insurance plan for about $100 with Obamacare. There is also the problem that people with HSAs are incentivized to avoid preventative care. What’s more, these are not really plans for the poor; those most able to use them are probably already getting insurance from their employers.
Basically, the Republican Study Committee’s answer to the healthcare crisis in this country is the same as it always is: the magic of the marketplace will fix everything. It is like the old cartoon of the two mathematicians at the chalkboard. There is math on the right and the left connected with “Then a miracle occurs.” We start with high healthcare costs that have existed despite all kinds of free markets working on the problem. And we end with low healthcare costs. How? Magic! Of course the Republicans don’t actually believe in the magic of the marketplace. They simply don’t want to do anything to help the poor and weak. This plan that Steve Scalise is presenting is not actual policy; it is simply political cover. But don’t be surprised if it gets a lot of good media attention.
Update (18 September 2013 1:05 pm)
I blew it! I forgot one of the Republican’s favorite policy ideas: tort reform! Yes, allowing people to not sue their doctors for malpractice is going to save our medical system! This too is a myth. Anyway, The Hill provides a preview of the official plan. I thought this part from the article was telling:
This is why Republicans always come up with bad policy. They start with everything that they can’t do. So they never approach any problem with, “What’s the best way to solve this?” And so they provide justifications for why all the things they always want to do will fix this problem. It’s just propaganda, not policy.