Half-measures won’t work when it comes to fixing the mess that is Obamacare

Home Article Half-measures won’t work when it comes to fixing the mess that is Obamacare
Half-measures won’t work when it comes to fixing the mess that is Obamacare

The following is a guest post by Stephen Kent.

Americans disagree on a lot these days, but one opinion unites the majority of the country: Washington lacks courage. One group with a unique perspective on the tumult in D.C. is millennial Republicans. These partisans may be young, but they’re old enough to remember a time when being a Republican meant saying no to government run healthcare. Their formative years in Republican circles were easy and required understanding only one thing––Obamacare is bad. Repeal and replace it. Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan, as the de facto leaders of the party, offered a plan that united the GOP while managing to satisfy both the healthcare wonks and grassroots activists.

Flash forward to April 2017 and the Trump administration–with Ryan as Speaker of the House–cannot pass a repeal and replacement of Obamacare. The American Health Care Act failed in late March and the second attempt, dubbed Trumpcare 2.0, was already being declared dead on arrival several weeks later. As it turns out, simplistic stump speeches about repealing what is essentially a new entitlement program is politically challenging. In London on Wednesday, Ryan said the House GOP are putting the “finishing touches” on their next pass at Trumpcare. Next week, when Congress returns to Washington, healthcare will be at the top of the list for the Speaker and his allies. Early indicators show the Freedom Caucus to be on board with recent changes introduced to the bill, and for proponents of full repeal this should be troubling.

The solution to political cowardice offered up in Trumpcare 2.0 is to be expected if you were already skeptical of politicians and their promises. In what could only be described as a twisted version of federalist thought, Trumpcare 2.0 offers a limited waiver for states to opt out of federal standards such as essential health benefits. The political incentive structure of Obamacare was designed to make repeal as painful as possible and Republicans are only just now feeling the hurt. The option of states maintaining the status quo is a political accommodation for members dealing with a sudden burst of Obamacare’s popularity in their states. It’s a jarring sight, seeing Ryan and House leadership stand by a plan that keeps in place more of Obamacare than it repeals. Just a few notable items include:

  • Coverage on parents’ plans until age 26. Pajama boy lives to lounge another day.
  • People with pre-existing conditions will remain fully covered, defeating the entire point of an insurance market and risk pools.
  • Essential health benefits must still be offered. Yes, maternity care for Mom and Dad.

The centerpiece of Obamacare is the individual mandate. To the credit of Trumpcare 2.0, that would be repealed in full. However, we must ask ourselves if that would actually help or hurt an already-hobbled healthcare system. The mandate requiring all Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty is the only nudge that moves many healthy young people into the market. The problem is that the penalty hasn’t been enough, as still only 28 percent of adults under 34 have signed up for Obamacare. Take away the mandate, and risk pools will almost certainly lose their pipeline of young, healthy enrollees. Costs will skyrocket, even more than they have under Obamacare. North Carolina by some projections would experience average premium increases as high as $7,500 and as low as $2,000. Either way, Trumpcare 2.0 raises healthcare costs on people in North Carolina.

Make no mistake, Obamacare was crafted in such a way as to dare Republicans to get rid of it and endure the blowback, but they need to remember who sent them to Washington. While elected Republicans may have forgotten, young Republicans haven’t forgotten why they joined came on board with the GOP. Paul Ryan and President Trump should honor that by dumping Trumpcare 2.0 and moving to repeal every last word of Obamacare.

Stephen Kent is the Public Relations Manager of Young Voices.

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