If the main battle of the Obama presidency has been over health care, the GOP’s strategy up to this point was to simply derail the law (later, repealing or crippling it) without offering any viable alternatives of their own. However new legislation proposed by Republican Senators Tom Coburn, Richard Burr, and Orrin Hatch represents the first real alternative to the President’s signature policy offered by the GOP.
Called the Patient CARE Act, this law does not contradict the Affordable Care Act, but instead steals some of the most popular parts of that law in theory if not in practice. In a sense it recognizes that the ACA is the “law of the land” and rather than trying to undo it, the law seems to be a sensible, fiscally conservative alternative. John Goodman—the founding president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, not “King Ralph”—calls the bill “an economist’s dream” mostly because it limits tax preferences for health care that wreak havoc on the insurance market by driving up demand for “Cadillac” health plans that otherwise people would not have.
There are no health exchanges and protections against premiums increasing for pre-existing conditions are lessened, as are subsidies for the middle class. This is different from Sen. Coburn’s last health proposal which included tax-relief for all. In fact, Sen. Coburn’s first proposal could have been a big step towards kind of single-payer program desired by many progressives.
Each taxpayer would receive a refundable tax credit with which he or she could purchase insurance—about $2500. Since this is about what it costs to enroll in Medicaid, if people had the option to use that credit this way, it would go a long way towards true “universal” healthcare coverage in America. Still what’s most interesting about this bill is that it signals a slight acquiescence on the part of the GOP to the fact that despite its troubled roll-out, the ACA isn’t the policy boondoggle that other GOP Senators (e.g. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul) have claimed.