Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Magical Plans

As we discussed in this space a week or so ago, the Supreme Court today is hearing the case of King v Burwell which, depending upon how the court decides, could fatally undercut the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) by disallowing the subsidies upon which millions of low and middle income Americans depend to afford their health care insurance. Given that health care in this country is ridiculously expensive for the reasons we’ve already discussed, it seems fairly Grinchy to pull the rug out from under people who are now enjoying health insurance, many for the first time ...

But help is at hand, apparently, should the Supreme Court decide the subsidies are illegal*!

In an OpEd article that appeared in The Washington Post on March 1st, three Republican Congressmen - Orrin Hatch of Utah (Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee), Lamar Alexander of Tennessee (Chair of the Senate Finance Committee), and John Barrasso of Wyoming (Chair of the Senate Republican Policy Committee) – announced that

“Republicans have a plan to protect Americans harmed by the administration’s actions**.”

This is wonderful news! Of course, it might have been even more wonderful had it been announced a few years ago, in place of endless, useless votes to defund all or part of the ACA, but hey! – they have a plan now!

But as you might suspect, Bilbo the Cynical Curmudgeon has a few questions and observations about this GOP plan as outlined in the OpEd article …

First, an observation: an OpEd article does not constitute a “plan.” It constitutes a pair of promises designed to give the impression that a plan exists. As we shall see, I’m not sure that’s true.

The GOP recognizes that if the Supreme Court decides against the subsidies, millions of people who now are getting health insurance for the first time will no longer be able to afford it, and will lose it. This would be undesirable from a PR perspective. Therefore, the first part of the “plan” is this:

“We would provide financial assistance to help Americans keep the coverage they picked for a transitional period.”

Riddle me this, Batman … what will be the source of funding for this financial assistance? The GOP advertises itself, after all, as the party of fiscal restraint, insisting that new spending be offset by cuts to other programs. One might reasonably ask, therefore, what other programs will be cut to provide this assistance, or what other source of funding has been identified. This is not spelled out in the article, and I suspect it has been glossed over in the hopes that no one asks about it ... especially not the extreme fiscal conservatives of the GOP who will adamantly oppose new spending***.

The second part of the “plan” is this:

“We will give states the freedom and flexibility to create better, more competitive health insurance markets offering more options and different choices ... We have had many discussions with our Senate and House Republican colleagues on this issue, and there is a great deal of consensus on how to proceed. Many of our colleagues have good ideas, and we look forward to working together.”

You will, I hope, forgive me if I question the existence of “consensus” or an ability to “work together” within the Republican party. The recent fiasco over funding the Department of Homeland Security is a direct result of the refusal of the most hardline conservative Republicans to work with their more moderate colleagues (although there is great effort being made to put the blame on the Democrats). But be that as it may, how will the GOP “plan” to increase options and choices work? What are the other options that are being considered? How will they differ from the options and choices now available? Inquiring minds want to know.

So I ask again ... what's the plan? And what makes Senators Hatch, Alexander, and Barrasso think that anyone other than the most die-hard conservatives will believe that their platitudes constitute a plan?

Sadly there's quite a bit of stupidity and gullibility in the American voting population ... perhaps just enough to carry the day. And then they can turn to the GOP and ask what the plan is.

Good luck getting a straight answer.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* For a very good analysis of the legal issue, read this New York Times OpEd by Nicholas Bagley: Hello, Justices? It's Reality Calling.

** I assume they are referring to the incalculable harm done to millions of Americans who are now able to obtain affordable health care insurance.

***  The obvious solution is that they will just print the money and blame the Democrats for making it necessary for them to do so.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

I don't expect straight answers from Washington. Never did.

Linda Kay said...

Let me just say that from what I'm seeing among those who are too poor to afford expensive policies...even though they were able to get a low payment on a plan (which of course is being subsidized by the government), they are dropping the plans because they still can't afford them when other bills take priority. And they just go to the hospital emergency and run up a bill where they can't be refused care. I don't have the answer, but would hope something can be figured out among all those great minds in Congress..Dems and GOP

Mike said...

National healthcare is the only true answer. If we can afford to kill innocent civilians in fake wars we can afford healthcare for our citizens.

allenwoodhaven said...

Well said Bilbo. I also agree with Mike. A national system is needed. Doesn't every, or nearly every, industrialized country have one?

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Leaving it to Congress means it won't get done.