Thursday, March 9, 2017

From RomneyCare Without Romney to ObamaCare Without Obama?

In my post of November 14, 2016, I predicted that Democrats Will be a Lot Less Disappointed in Trump than They Think. In that post, I wrote:

High on the agenda of the new unified Republican government is to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Yet already, Trump has said he will keep two key features; the mandate to allow parents to keep their children on their policies until age 27, and the mandate banning insurance companies from refusing new policies because of pre-existing conditions.

As to the first, why should the government even be involved in this issue. That should be between insurers and their customers to decide by mutual agreement.

The second—the pre-existing conditions mandate—is the biggie. That’s the mandate that necessitates the individual mandate—the cornerstone of ObamaCare. So repealing two key features of ObamaCare are already off the table. Of course, other changes, such as switching off government policies that created the third-party-payer, or employer-based, insurance—a main cause of the pre-existing conditions problem—would help a lot. We’ll see if we get that.

But, repeal and replace ObamaCare? Maybe in name only. More likely, we’ll get reformed ObamaCare—ObamaCare without Obama.

ObamaCare, of course, was modeled after Mitt Romney’s scheme he imposed on Massachusetts when he was governor. President Obama and the Democrats adopted Romney’s approach, and have had to deal with the fallout from that disaster all the way to Republican domination of Washington.

While I’ll reserve final judgement on the bill—I haven’t read it yet, and it is subject to revision—my initial impression is not encouraging, based on what people whose views I trust have said. The Republicans seem intent on outdoing the Democrats. On the GOP’s just-released and much anticipated “repeal and Replace” bill, CATO’s Michael F. Cannon observes:

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised legislation that “fully repeals ObamaCare.” Monday night, the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives released legislation it claims would repeal and replace ObamaCare. Tuesday afternoon, Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Capitol Hill to pressure members of Congress to support the bill. On Wednesday, two House Committees will begin to mark-up the legislation. House and Senate leaders are hoping for quick consideration and a signing ceremony, maybe by May, so they can move on to other things, like tax reform and confirming Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch.

Everyone needs to take a step back. This bill is a train wreck waiting to happen.

The House leadership bill isn’t even a repeal bill. Not by a long shot. It would repeal far less of ObamaCare than the bill Republicans sent to President Obama one year ago. The ObamaCare regulations it retains are already causing insurance markets to collapse. It would allow that collapse to continue, and even accelerate the collapse. Republicans would then own whatever damage ObamaCare causes, such as when the law leaves seriously ill patients with no coverage at all. Congress would have to revisit ObamaCare again and again to address problems they failed to fix the first time around. ObamaCare would consume the rest of Congress’ and President Trump’s agenda. Delaying or dooming other priorities like tax reform, infrastructure spending, and Gorsuch. The fallout could dog Republicans all the way into 2018 and 2020, when it could lead to a Democratic wave election like the one we saw in 2008. Only then, Democrats won’t have ObamaCare on their mind but single-payer.

The worst thing about the so-called American Health Care Act is that it is being billed by people like Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) as a free market, pro liberty bill. Despite some marginal free market-oriented reforms, it produces nothing remotely like a free market. But when the problems arise, the free market will get the blame, and the allegedly free market AHCA will be offered as proof that the free market approach doesn’t work. Rather than a half-assed ObamaCare without Obama, they’d be better off letting ObamaCare carry on.

My view is that ObamaCare should be repealed outright, returning to the pre-ObamaCare status quo. Then, do it right—that is, repeal and/or revise the government intrusions and controls that were causing the problems that made ObamaCare “necessary” in the first place. The goal should not be simply another plan to “get everybody covered.” The goal should be to remove the roadblocks that have made it increasingly hard for people to be healthcare self-reliant. The bills can be passed simultaneously. They can overlap for a time to allow people to adjust to the new market conditions. But they should be very strong that they intend to repeal statist ObamaCare and replace it with meaningful free market, individual rights-based reforms.

Regardless of current ObamaCare polling, it’s no secret that Republicans were very open for a very long time about what they would do with ObamaCare, and were elected on that platform. The Republicans are going to get skewered by the demagogues on the Left no matter what they propose. Why not fulfill their long-held promise? Why not do it right?  

Related Reading:

As ObamaCare Failures Pile Up, Get Ready for the Mother-of-All Healthcare Battles

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