Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Scott Walker will take away your good health insurance, replace it with platitudes

Another Republican presidential candidate, another Obamacare repeal and "replace" plan. Sen. Marco Rubio trotted his out on Tuesday, only to be totally eclipsed by Gov. Scott Walker, who gave what was billed as a "major policy speech" but which contained just the same warmed over Republican ideas Rubio listed.

He starts grandiose:

"On my very first day as president, I will send legislation to the Congress that will once and for all repeal Obamacare entirely and replace it in a way that puts patients and their families back in charge of their health care decisions," the Wisconsin governor said in a speech at a machine parts company near Minneapolis.
Priority number one for the first day (or two? after bombing Iran?) is to kick 19 million people off of their health insurance. Take away millions of dollars in seniors' prescription drug savings. Increase the deficit by repealing the savings the law has realized. Take away all the protections (no more pre-existing conditions) and benefits (preventive care with no additional copays) of the law for everyone who has insurance—employer-sponsored or through Obamacare, Medicare, or Medicaid.

The rest of it? The same old, same old idea. He'd replace tax credits now based on income with tax credits based on age. Healthcare economist Tim Jost reviewed it and says Walker's "tax credits at the level proposed would not begin to cover the cost of decent coverage." And it wouldn't. The largest tax credit goes to people aged 50-64 and is $3,000. The average subsidyfor all age groups in Obamacare in 2014 was $3,312 per person. So, no, $1,200 to someone under age 34 isn't going to be enough to pay for insurance.

He, like every other Republican, would allow insurance companies to sell across state lines. Which would probably lead insurance companies to move to states that had the laxest regulations, allowing companies to sell the crappy insurance that repealing Obamacare would lead to. State-based high risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions? Check. They don't work because they cover sick, expensive people and either are underfunded or have to charge way too much for those sick people to participate. Tort reform? Check. Contrary to Republican belief, healthcare costs aren't high because of providers' liability insurance. Health savings accounts? Check. Because everyone has enough extra money every month to save. Block-granting Medicaid? Check. Turn the program entirely over to the states so that we could have even more inequity among the states, where blue states use the money to try to help the most people and red states siphon it off in scheme to enrich Republican donors.

What Walker totally avoids is doing anything to Medicare. So there's that. Of course, what he does do is repeal the Medicare reforms that have been saving the federal government a lot of money. Larry Levitt, a health policy expert with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, identifies this as Walker's biggest problem—it costs too much. "The tax credits would cost the federal government a substantial amount of money, but the plan would repeal all the revenue sources in the Affordable Care Act," he says.

This isn't a serious proposal. Just like all the other Republican proposals—because it is just like all the other Republican plans. A jumble of half-measures that don't add up to any kind of system, and certainly don't add up to a way to bring healthcare costs under control or provide health insurance to everyone.

Aug 18, 2015 by Joan McCarter

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