No point saving what shouldn't be saved

Sens. Alexander and Murray: We’ve got a plan to stabilize ObamaCare! Trump: No, just repeal it

By —— Bio and Archives--October 19, 2017

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When four Senate Republicans saved ObamaCare, the fear was that President Trump would become more open to something that could only pass with Democrat votes. And that couldn’t be something good.

If the events of yesterday are any indication, things may be more hopeful than we first thought.

First, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Patty Murray (D-Washington) came out with a “bipartisan” plan to stabilize ObamaCare markets and authorize the heretofore illegal payments the government has, until recently, been making to insurers to subsidize money-losing policies. Nothing good happens for the country when you stabilize a law whose very nature makes it unstable, but the thought was that Trump would sign the bill for lack of a better option.

Surprise, and a pleasant one:

A bipartisan deal from two senators to stabilize Obamacare by restoring subsidies to health insurers suffered major setbacks on Wednesday with the White House saying President Donald Trump now opposes it and senior Republicans speaking out against it.

House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, Senate Republican leadership member John Thune and others expressed hostility to the deal announced on Tuesday by Republican Lamar Alexander and Democrat Patty Murray. It was uncertain if it would ever come to a vote in a Congress controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans.

The agreement would shore up Obamacare by reviving billions of dollars of federal subsidies to insurers for two years to help lower-income Americans obtain medical coverage.

Alexander said on Wednesday that Trump had “completely engineered” the bipartisan proposal, but the president backed away from support he had expressed a day earlier.

On Tuesday, Trump said the White House was involved in the negotiations and that the agreement was “a very good solution” for a short-term approach, but said on Wednesday he could “never support bailing out” insurance companies.

If this means Trump was open to the idea but someone got to him and explained it would neither solve the problem nor benefit the country in any way, good. Here’s what you’ve probably not been understanding about this issue if you’re going by the media coverage:

The subsidies are not about helping poor people, per se. The insurers have to cover them per the law, but because of the way the law regulates premiums, insurers are almost guaranteed to lose money selling the policies. What the subsidies were doing is bailing out the insurers for selling the policies the law requires them to sell. The Obama Administration was making these payments illegally because Congress has refused to allocate money for them, and a federal court upheld the position of Congress that the payments were illegal. The payments continued with the case on appeal, but the Trump Administration last week announced it would no longer make the payments.


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The Alexander-Murray proposal would have provided legal authorization for the payments, but that would not have solved the underlying problem, which is the economic irrationality of the law. ObamaCare forces insurers to offer policies to people regardless of the risk they represent, and won’t allow them to price the policies commensurate to that risk. It tries to get around this by mandating that healthy people have to buy the same policies, but the healthy people don’t want the policies and many are opting to pay fines rather than do so. This is why the markets are unstable, because the whole scheme was insane to begin with.

Propping this up would provide short-term relief to insurers, but would be more detrimental in the long run because it would mask the true flaws with the law. The only thing that makes sense is to get rid of it entirely. The Republican majority has failed to hold itself together sufficient to do this so far, and perhaps phony Repubicans McCain, Collins, Murkowski and Paul thought the president would bail them out by propping up the horrible law they decided to save.

Nope. Senate Republicans, back to you, because this problem isn’t going away and no one is going to save you from your refusal to do your jobs.

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Dan Calabrese -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Dan Calabrese’s column is distributed by HermanCain.com, which can be found at HermanCain

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