Republicans want to make the insurance industry more like the credit card industry
"A House Republican health-care bill wouldn't seek to prevent health-insurance companies from denying sick people insurance," the first paragraph of the Wall Street Journal's preview of the latest Republican health-care reform alternative says. "Republicans also wouldn't prevent insurers from ending policies once an individual becomes seriously ill," reads the fifth. On the bright side, the Republican bill would allow insurers to base themselves in whichever state has the weakest regulatory standards and then sell policies built around those rules nationwide. If you've ever thought that your insurance was too comprehensive, too straightforward, and contained too few loopholes that you didn't learn about until you feel terribly ill, then this is the plan for you!
I'm tired of doing this. I'm tired of pretending that political documents are the same as policy documents. Republicans have not released a plan to reform the health-care system. They have released a plan (pdf) to have people stop bugging them about releasing a plan to reform the health-care system. The two are not the same thing.
The difference is clear from the first page. The bill released by House Democrats states that the legislation is meant "to provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes." The "amendment in the nature of a substitute" by John Boehner says, "The purpose of this Act is to take meaningful steps to lower health care costs and increase access to health insurance coverage (especially for individuals with preexisting conditions) without --
(1) raising taxes;
(2) cutting Medicare benefits for seniors;
(3) adding to the national deficit;
(4) intervening in the doctor-patient relationship; or
(5) instituting a government takeover of health care."
The bill is framed in terms of Republican attacks on the Democratic bill, not in terms of its own aims or methods. Which is fine, and to be expected. If I were a Republican, I wouldn't spend my time crafting a health-care reform plan, either. Republicans don't have the votes to pass a bill, and they know it. As such, they're not particularly interested in spending months crafting a precise and detailed health-care reform alternative, as it wastes time that could be spent fighting the Democratic bill, raising money for 2010, and generally working on projects that have an actual chance to succeed.
But you don't get to have it both ways. You don't get to save time by producing a bill that wouldn't solve any problems and doesn't hang together and then also get to whine about how no one is covering the legislation you introduced on Nov. 3 when you can't even say how many people will be covered under your bill! This isn't serious legislation. It's a really long press release. And I don't cover really long press releases.
The irony is that the GOP is lucky that most of the press corps will react similarly. A serious investigation into what would happen if we let insurers cluster in the state with the least regulations and then sell that product nationwide would not go well for the Republicans. Nor will a sustained look at the world of "high-risk pools" be comforting to Americans. "Make the insurance industry more like the credit card industry!" is not a winning slogan.
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