GOP Alternatives to ObamaCare

Joe Paduda

Posted 5/2/12 on Managed Care Matters

When it comes to health reform, perhaps the only thing Congressional Republicans agree on is they hate ObamaCare.

There’s no agreement on a basic framework much less consensus on an actual bill. Moreover, there are parts of ObamaCare that enjoy solid support amongst many Republicans, complicating the GOP’s efforts to develop an alternative without conceding political ground.

Their dilemma is certainly understandable; as anyone who followed the tortuous path of the PPACA (aka Obamacare), there was precious little consensus among the Democrats who passed the bill. While most had serious issues with various bits and pieces, they held their noses and voted “aye” when pressed.

Now that there’s a distinct possibility that the Supremes will overturn part/some/all of reform, there’s pressure on the GOP to come up with an alternative.

Here’s a few of the more contentious issues.

– requiring insurers accept all applicants is favored by most Republicans (according to Politico) but a) some senior Republicans hate the idea and b) there’s zero consensus re how to actually make that work. Do they forbid upcharging for older/sicker people? Adopt some form of risk-adjustment and/or financial transfer among/between insurers based on the risk profile of their members? Or allow the free market to operate, hoping that insurers will somehow figure out how to insure people with pre-existing conditions at affordable rates?

– taxation is a big issue; one bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) allows taxpayers to deduct all of their health care costs, while others cite the tax-free status of health insurance as a major cost driver. What looks like the leading bill (at least at this point) also uses the tax code to encourage people to buy insurance.

– most GOP-authored bills allow people to shop for insurance across state lines, which seems to be at odds with other GOP concerns that health insurance should be the purview of the states, and the Feds ought not to be involved

– the elimination of coverage for young adults and kids with pre-ex conditions is a concern to Rep Tom Price, who stated: “That would present a significant void and vacuum in health policy…There will be a need to have some things to fill that vacuum.” Again, many first-term Republicans see no role for the Federal government in health care, making any caucus-wide consensus on the issue doubtful.

– most of the plans on offer include some thyme of malpractice reform, however there’s ample evidence that malpractice reform would have a negligible impact – at best – on system costs. (One authoritative study indicated a 10% reduction in malpractice rates was associated with about a 0.132% decrease in the overall cost of care.)

If the GOP decides it must act, the challenge will be to first convince the Tea Part Republicans that Congress has the authority to do so. While the Republican Party used to be pretty disciplined (especially when compared to the Democrats), last summer’s debt-ceiling fiasco was ample warning that Boehner doesn’t control his membership.

If and when that’s done, next step is to come up with a plan that doesn’t look an awful lot like/have a lot of the same provisions in ObamaCare and make sure it actually expands coverage and reduces costs, as scored by the CBO.

This should be interesting…

Hat tip to California Healthline for the head’s up.

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