The Trump administration was right to resurrect short-term insurance plans last month as a limited off-ramp from Obamacare for those trapped in the insolvent individual market. However, let’s not forget that we are only in this position because Congress has refused to address the core problems with health care and medical insurance. Both parties have agreed to perpetuate the worst elements of Obamacare.
As early as 2016, my premiums had already tripled, and the coverage was terrible! I dropped out and opted for a health-sharing ministry, but since then, premiums almost doubled again. And now, in my state of Maryland, they are slated to go up another 91 percent. Yet Mitch McConnell and the overwhelming majority of Republicans believe that the regulations that led to this outcome are the solution, not the problem, and will do everything in their power to fight for their acceptance.
Last Friday, 10 Republicans introduced legislation to protect the core elements of Obamacare – guaranteed issue and community rating – from a potential lawsuit. Oral arguments will begin in the newest round of litigation against the law in the Northern District of Texas next Wednesday. “This legislation is a common-sense solution that guarantees Americans with pre-existing conditions will have health care coverage, regardless of how our judicial system rules on the future of Obamacare,” wrote Senator Thom Tillis in his introductory statement.
Tillis was joined by Lamar Alexander, Charles E. Grassley, Dean Heller, Bill Cassidy, Lisa Murkowski, Joni Ernst, Lindsey Graham, John Barrasso, and Roger Wicker. Remember, Alexander is the head of the committee with jurisdiction over the issue, Cassidy has led all health care legislative initiatives, and Barrasso is the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee and was the point man on Obamacare. The most prominent Republicans support the core elements of the law, and there is only a handful of senators who don’t share the Democrat philosophy on the issue. This is not about 60 or 51 votes. We don’t even have 15 Republicans who are with us on the most important fiscal issue of our time.
And this all starts with leadership. The entire messaging of the GOP establishment on health care for the past six years was built on a lie. It’s just a shame Mitch McConnell didn’t run ads during his 2014 primary promising to enshrine Obamacare rather than repeal it root and branch.
In June, the Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Sessions, announced that it would not defend Obamacare in court during the new round of lawsuits against it. Now that the tax law zeroed out the penalty for declining to purchase health insurance, 20 attorneys general and governors are arguing in a lawsuit that, pursuant to the Supreme Court’s ruling in NFIB v. Sebelius, the individual mandate can no longer be constitutional because it is clearly no longer a tax.
While this lawsuit faces an uphill battle in an intellectually dishonest and inconsistent judiciary, one would think that McConnell and company would relish the opportunity to at least save face by fighting the issue in the courts. That’s what they usually like to do, for example, on religious liberty. Yet McConnell, as well as these 10 other Republicans (and most of the others as well), is now criticizing the DOJ for not defending guaranteed issue and community rating, the regulations that made insurance insolvent, gave incumbent powers a monopoly against competition, and have led to the destruction of the entire private insurance market. Nobody can afford insurance without a subsidy or a group plan.
“Everybody I know in the Senate, everybody is in favor of maintaining coverage for pre-existing conditions,” said McConnell in June, going back on his campaign pledge. “There is no difference of opinion about that whatsoever.”
No difference whatsoever, indeed. There really is no difference between the two parties on the philosophy of endless subsidies, mandates, and regulations that drive up prices, create monopolies, limit freedoms, and hurt private practice. The funny thing is that the pre-existing condition provision was the heart and soul of what made insurance insolvent; it was both the root and the branch of the law. It is what created a monopoly to gouge consumers. Thanks to their “compassion,” the cost of a “bronze plan” for the averaged subsidized consumer, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, was $89 per month in 2018. A non-subsidized customer? As high as $2,500 a month for family plans. Thanks, Mitch.
Yes, a government-driven monopoly is definitely one way to “stabilize” the markets. With endless subsidies and both parties now owning the promise for perpetual bailouts and cost-sharing payouts, it’s actually quite easy for the few remaining insurers to remain in business, especially if one or two more drop out. But what happens to the remaining Americans who aren’t subsidized?
And here’s the kicker: 84 percent of all those who gained “coverage” under Obamacare were through the Medicaid program, which has nothing to do with these so-called private insurers and the pre-existing condition mandate. Moreover, almost all private insurance growth under Obamacare is from enrollees under 30. Most of these weren’t dying in the streets before Obamacare — they just didn’t feel a need to purchase a plan, even though insurance was much cheaper then. In fact, for those above the age of 26, Obamacare has caused a decline in private coverage (outside Medicaid and SCHIP).
So, we destroyed the insurance market for a handful of people, most of whom already had access to state high-risk pools. And remember, the entire problem of pre-existing conditions was born out of this very philosophy of giving insurance companies a monopoly over health care through the tax code, Medicare, and Medicaid, thereby eliminating price transparency, inflating the price of health care, creating monopolies, and destroying the concept of lifelong continuous renewal catastrophic insurance that is portable and held from day one of life.
For the amount of money we spend on Medicaid and the subsidies just to give people terrible access and create a monopoly for health care and hospital administrator conglomerates over private practice, we could take every uninsurable person and stick money in their HSAs to pay directly for their bills. Then they can shop around to any vendor with price transparency, cut out the middle man constantly gouging the consumer and taxpayer, and allow the rest of the market to run smoothly.
Yet not a single prominent Republican will support any bold alternative to the Democrat disaster on health care. There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the parties on health care.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.