Over on Fox Nation, the top story on Thursday was a linked article from the Washington Examiner. The article hyped a press release from Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) where he states than an ‘independent’ study of his health care plan, the Empowering Patients First Act, showed that it would save $2.34 trillion over a ten-year period if it was enacted in 2016. Of course, as you’ve probably surmised, the study was done by a conservative institute, American Action Forum, and made wide-ranging assumptions that aren’t even in the proposed bill.
But, back to Fox. The GOP has had to deal with reporters asking them questions lately of whether or not they actually have a true alternative to the ACA. It has basically left them tripping over themselves and pivoting back to talking points about how Obamacare is bad or just ignoring the questions altogether. Obviously, Fox News felt the need to assist their Republican brethren. What they found was a crappy article written at the Examiner (a noted conservative tabloid rag) pushing Price’s press release. Well, obviously this needed to be run, and with a catchy title to boot: Republicans Have an Alternative to ObamaCare, and It Could Save $2.34 TRILLION.
The fact is, Price’s alternative plan has been floating around Congress for over four years, since he first introduced it in July 2009. His plan is the same today as it was then. When the non-partisan groups initially ran the numbers on his plan it was estimated to actually cost the government $100 billion, since there would be an increase in actual spending but no offsetting tax or revenue increases. When looking at Price’s bill, it is based mostly on market-based assumptions and hoping that more employers will cover their employees than today due to automatic enrollment in existing employer provided plans .
If you ask Price, he’d say that people with pre-existing conditions will be covered under his plan, that they do not need to worry about not being able to find coverage. However, when looking at his plan, there is no language that prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against pre-existing conditions. His solution is to have high-risk pools in every state. The problem with this is that most states had high-risk pools for years and the premiums were sky-high, as insurers could not spread out the costs between low and high-risk patients. Everyone in a high-risk pool is going to need to use their insurance and have high health care costs.
Another idea of Price’s to bring down premiums is to put a cap on defensive medicine spending and push for medical malpractice reform. Essentially, he is telling insurance companies that they don’t need to pay for ‘unnecessary’ tests and that settlements for malpractice or liability will be capped at a certain amount. Therefore, insurance companies get the final say, even more than before, on what treatment a patient can receive and doctors need not worry because they can only get sued for a certain amount if something goes wrong because of this.
Price does not include an individual mandate in his plan. Therefore, it is extremely difficult for him to be able to assess any potential rise in premium prices. Since there is no requirement for younger, healthier people to buy insurance, fewer low risk individuals will have insurance and therefore insurance companies will still raise premiums at the previous rate before the ACA took effect. Perhaps Price is thinking that a lot more people will be covered by employee group plans that they’d be automatically enrolled in once they began working at a company that offered a group plan. However, he is making a large assumption that there are a large number of people not covered under a spouse’s plan that choose to not to be covered by a group plan.
There is a lot more to dissect of Price’s plan (such as reducing Medicaid coverage.) But, the fact remains that this plan was not thought of as a legitimate alternative when it was first introduced more than four years ago. Sure, Price has constantly brought it up because it is his plan. But, far-right conservatives hate it because it still seems far too progressive a plan for them. It is at least an attempt to put together some regulations over the insurance companies while attempting to find a way to widen the pool for more people to be covered. And there are nowhere near enough Democrats who would go along with a plan this restrictive that also forces more working poor to pay for insurance rather than be covered through Medicaid.
So, yes, a Republican has an alternative for Obamacare. However, it isn’t new, and most House Republicans probably wouldn’t vote for it anyway. But, go ahead and hype away, Fox.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).