In 2010, we rose up en masse in protest against ObamaCare. We gave the US House to the Republicans, and closed the GOP’s deficit with the Democrats in the Senate. The people sent a message loud and clear: Get out of our business. Kill that monstrosity.
Instead, we’ve been rewarded with increased spending, tax increases, debt increases, and the implementation of ObamaCare. The GOP pledge to toss ObamaCare turned into “repeal and replace.” Replace? Who said anything about wanting a replacement?
Senator Richard Burr — whose recent shenanigans have helped earn him the nickname, thought to have died with Richard Nixon, of “Tricky Dick” — dismissed Ted Cruzs’ efforts to defund ObamaCare as “the dumbest idea.” He stood aside with Mitch McConnell and the gang as ObamaCare rolled through the chamber.
Now, Burr has signed on with Ted Kennedy BFF Orrin Hatch and the retiring Tom Coburn to a slightly different flavor of government meddling in health care:
Republicans on Capitol Hill are shifting their strategy to deal with the Affordable Care Act. Instead of calling for a dismantling of the health care law, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and others have proposed an alternative.
As much as Republicans oppose the Affordable Care Act, the plan backed by Burr and Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Orrin Hatch of Utah actually keeps some of the key concepts of the health care law.
“We want to keep kids able to stay on parents’ insurance until 26. It makes all the sense in the world to have a healthy population insured under the parents’ plan,” he said. “We want to make sure pre-existing disease is not something that knocks you out of the market.”
Under the plan, there would be no online health exchanges for people to shop for coverage, but the government would still offer subsidies to help people buy insurance. The plan also would repeal the corporate taxes now used to fund the law.
The proposal would, however, add a tax for employer-sponsored insurance plans, which cover about 56 percent of Americans.
“Very few would feel the effects” of that tax, Burr said.
Seriously? Adding a tax to employer-sponsored health plans makes it more expensive for employers to provide this benefit to their people. It shrinks the bottom line for folks seeking to perform that task so central to capitalism: making a profit.
That new tax will likely make some employers halt the hiring of full-time employees or cut back on health benefits. Contrary to the notion held by so many numbskull politicians, most business people don’t willingly eat the cost of government mandates. Those costs get passed on to consumers. Companies will pass the cost of Burr’s new tax on to their customers.
[I]n the rush to avoid being portrayed as “the party of no,” it is important to recognize that there is a right way to replace ObamaCare, and a wrong way. The proposal authored by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and released as the Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment Act (CARE) is a definitive example of the wrong way.
The Coburn-Burr-Hatch plan (CBH) does have a handful of positive characteristics. Title I of the proposal repeals the most onerous parts of Obamacare, including the much-reviled individual mandate, and for this it should be commended. As a whole, however, it retains far too much of the framework that makes Obamacare such a regulatory disaster.
To begin with, the plan restores many of the same administrative burdens that Obamacare imposes on private insurance companies. It still requires that insurers allow young adults to remain on their parents’ plans until age 26, and it introduces a slew of disclosure regulations that increase administrative costs for insurers. Additionally, while the overt requirement to accept patients with preexisting conditions is not included, insurers would be forced to take patients with such conditions who have been continuously covered by insurance for at least the past 18 months. That’s merely doing the wrong thing in a less wrong way.
The Affordable Care Act prohibited insurance companies from charging older patients more than three times the rate offered to younger ones. While the authors of CBH acknowledge that such a requirement is restrictive and forces costs up for young people, their plan would retain the regulation, merely substituting a ratio of five to one for ObamaCare’s three to one. This is a change of degree, not of principle, and the wrong approach to establishing a free market for healthcare.
While these regulatory burdens would likely pose little challenge to large, well-established insurance companies, the barriers to entry they create would discourage new and smaller firms from joining the market, ultimately harming competition, limiting consumer choices and keeping prices high. This is the wrong approach. We should be promoting competition, not restricting it.
The CBH plan further complicates the already bloated and distorted tax code by instituting a series of means-tested, age-based tax credits to individuals earning up to three times the federal poverty threshold, while at the same time capping the tax-free deductibility of health-care expenditures at 65 percent. This is effectively a large tax increase on workers who have access to employer-provided health insurance, and the phase out of the tax credits raises the implicit marginal tax rates on middle-income families.
Increasing taxes on the one hand while offering tax credits on the other is a redistributionist policy, far from the free market reforms the proposal’s authors’ claim. The means testing and age-based nature of these credits fails to end the current discrimination against the purchase of health insurance by individuals in the same way that a flat, lump sum credit that treats all Americans equally would.