This commentary originally appeared in The Hill on March 17, 2017.
House Republicans released their long-awaited ObamaCare repeal and replace legislation last week. To say the bill falls far short of what was promised is tantamount to saying the Titanic had some travel difficulties. The legislation has rightly resulted in widespread condemnation from conservatives and those seeking relief from crushing federal control over our healthcare system.
And to add insult to injury, the House bill, dubbed the American Health Care Act, provides a bucket of hard earned taxpayer money to shore up insurance companies as they try to navigate a continued top-down federal regulatory regime.
The House bill not only fails to repeal ObamaCare, it readies billions to bail out insurance companies—exactly $100 billion of your money.
On page 45 of the Energy and Commerce title of the House GOP bill, a new Patient and State Stability Fund is created. This fund is to be administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in the form of taxpayer-backed grants for states to use to coerce insurers to stay in a rapidly deteriorating market.
And as if this new bailout slush fund for insurers wasn’t bad enough, the House bill also failed to repeal ObamaCare’s risk corridors—a marked step backward from where Congress was just two years earlier.
For those who don’t know, the risk corridors were created to prop up insurers as they were forced to take on higher populations of the sick and indigent under ObamaCare. However, as millions of cancellation notices piled up all over the country putting the lie to the president’s claim that, “if you like your plan you can keep your plan,” the Obama administration responded with a blatant violation of the law. It told CMS to waive the statutory language in ObamaCare and allow people to keep their previous plans for a temporary time.
When this occurred, insurers immediately began lobbying the Obama administration for billions more in risk corridor dollars to offset the sudden increase of sick people in their plans—all funded by Joe taxpayer. In short, after ObamaCare completely dismantled the healthcare system, the Obama administration violated its own law, abandoned its constitutional duties, and then forced Congress and the American taxpayer to pick up the tab for its mess.
The least Congress could do if it’s going to create a shiny new bailout fund for insurers is shut off the old one.
The House bill would do little to drive down costs, improve quality of care, and provide individuals and families with more choice and competition. Yet, the bill’s architects still found the time and energy to ensure their K Street cronies received their carve-outs and taxpayer funded pay day.
The American Health Care Act is indeed little more than ObamaCare 2.0. It fails to fully repeal ObamaCare, leaving intact most of the onerous insurance regulations and mandates responsible for driving up premiums and deductibles. It leaves significant portions of the flawed and costly Medicaid expansion intact. And it replaces ObamaCare’s subsidy scheme with a new federal entitlement in the form of a refundable tax credit.
That is neither repeal nor replace. That is replacing ObamaCare with ObamaCare.
It is a slap in the face to the constituents they represent.
The current approach perpetuates the same flawed assumptions that gave us the ObamaCare debacle in the first place—doubling down on the fatal conceit that distant bureaucrats know better than patients and doctors on how to deliver care to those who need it.
Congress would do well to understand that full repeal means exactly that: full repeal. The American people have spoken loud and clear on this issue over the years. They expect their elected officials to make good on that promise.
And to end the cronyism, half-measures, and central planning that brought us to the brink in the first place.