Remember a few months ago when we warned you about the GOP doing the easy, unethical thing and drafting a half-assed replacement to Obamacare? Well, that day has come. Luckily, one conservative senator is still fighting the good fight: Rand Paul.
Why’s Rand so worried? It’s simple. Rumors are swirling that the GOP’s plan to repeal and replace Obamacare is really a plan to install Obamacare-Lite. The Daily Caller’s Juliegrace Brufke leaked the details, and they’re not good. The grassroots organization Freedomworks panned the bill, noting some of its worst provisions:
Requirement for Continuous Coverage: The discussion draft shows that ObamaCare’s individual and employer mandates are zeroed out, but a new Republican version of the individual mandate takes its place. Rather than a fine for a failure to obtain a qualified health insurance plan, the discussion draft contains a penalty “equal to 30 percent of the monthly premium rate” if the policyholder failed to maintain continuous coverage.
Cadillac Tax: ObamaCare sought to wean Americans off employer-provided health insurance coverage through the “Cadillac tax,” or a 40 percent excise tax on health plans that cost $10,200 or more for individuals and $27,500 for a family. Though this was purportedly aimed at high-end health insurance plans, nearly three-quarters of plans will be been hit by the Cadillac tax by 2028. Separating health insurance from a job is good public policy, but ObamaCare did it the wrong way.
The Cadillac tax aside, employers are allowed to deduct the cost of health insurance coverage for employees, lowering their annual taxable income. The deduction cost about $250 billion in FY 2016, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The House Republican discussion draft would tax employer-sponsored plans “equal to the 90th percentile of annual coverage,” or the top 10 percent most expensive plans. This provision, however, is not intended to shift Americans to the individual market. It is, rather, a revenue mechanism to help pay for the cost of the refundable tax credits.
New Mandatory Spending: The discussion draft includes $100 billion in direct, or mandatory, spending for state innovation grants, which will be used to, among other things, fund high-risk pools in states to help consumers with preexisting conditions afford coverage on the individual market or to stabilize premiums. The House Republican “Better Way” blueprint released in June 2016 called for only $25 billion for state innovation grants over ten years.
So it’s safe to say Republicans are going back to the well. But conservatives on Capitol Hill are wary of their efforts, and on their behalf, Senator Rand Paul is trying to get to the bottom of things, but he’s been stifled. As the Hill reports:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday blasted House Republicans for keeping their ObamaCare repeal and replace legislation under wraps.
“I have been told that the House Obamacare bill is under lock & key, in a secure location, & not available for me or the public to view,” Paul tweeted.
“This is unacceptable. This is the biggest issue before Congress and the American people right now.”
The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s new bill is being kept in a “dedicated reading room,” Bloomberg reported, where it will be available to members of the panel ahead of a markup. The move is an effort to prevent leaks.
Rand is right. The American people sent a clear message in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016. They built massive Republican majorities for one purpose: The repeal and replacement of Obamacare with a plan that returns consumer freedom and actually lowers the cost of healthcare. A failure to deliver on that promise will be an abject disaster. A victory could usher in conservative majorities for a long time.
A lot is at stake. Will Republicans stand with Rand, or will they continue to disappoint?