The GOP’s ‘New’ Alternative To Obamacare Is Just More Of The Same Old Republican Policies


Republican Study Committe Chairman Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)

Republican Study Committe Chairman Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)

CREDIT: U.S. House of Representatives

The Republican Party has come under scrutiny for failing to supplement its endless demands to delay, defund, and repeal the Affordable Care Act with alternative policies to address America’s broken health care system. On Wednesday, the Republican Study Committee (RSC) — a collection of conservative House GOP members — aimed to address that criticism by introducing the American Health Care Reform Act.

“While we continue fighting to repeal the president’s health care law, it is also important to lay out the reforms we stand behind and support,” said RSC chairman Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) in a press release. “American families and businesses deserve and demand real solutions to the serious problems that exist in our health care system.” Scalese went on to describe the proposals as “free-market solutions” that would expand health coverage and lower costs.

The bill has five main propositions: a standard deduction against payroll and income taxes of $7,500 for individuals and $20,000 for families that would be given to Americans who have qualifying insurance plans; government funding for statewide high-risk pools to help those with pre-existing medical conditions get coverage; allowing people to buy insurance across state lines; an expansion of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs); and medical malpractice liability reform.

If that all of this sounds familiar, it’s because Republicans have been proposing some combination of these ideas since at least 2007. President George W. Bush proposed the standard deduction idea during his January 2007 State of the Union address. At the time, the Center for American Progress (CAP) criticized the plan as one that “would do little to help the uninsured and could replace the employer health insurance system with individual coverage that in most states is inaccessible and unaffordable to many.”

State-run high-risk pools for Americans with a history of costly illnesses were a mainstay of Sen. John McCain’s health care plan when he was running against Barack Obama in 2008. But critics rightly pointed out that these pools are often plagued by waiting periods, premiums that are out of reach for many families, high deductibles and co-pays, and limits on many types of speciality care such as mental health and maternity care services.

Mitt Romney regularly endorsed allowing Americans to buy insurance across state lines during the 2012 presidential election that put the health law front and center. But the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that older and sicker people who continue to purchase robust plans within their own states would likely have to pay more money under this scheme. Many critics also predicted that without a minimum standard of offered coverage, insurers would simply engage in a race-to-the-bottom where they move to states that impose the lowest level of benefit requirements.

Romney also included an expansion of HSAs as a major portion of his health care plan. While the RSC’s plan has some differences from Romney’s proposal, it would be subject to the same flaws — namely, that it’s a great tool for healthy people, but Americans with costly chronic illnesses would quickly deplete their accounts and be left to fend for themselves.

Finally, medical malpractice reform was an idea proposed by Bush, McCain, and Romney — and also by President Obama during the debate over health reform (it didn’t make it into the ultimate bill). Unfortunately, study after study has shown that this would only reduce health care spending by somewhere between one and three percent.

The RSC proposal would do very little to address the plight of the uninsured, since it doesn’t set robust benefit standards or provide help unemployed Americans without health coverage. And even aside from that, none of the individual aspects of this supposedly “new” Obamacare replacement are even new to begin with.