Scott Walker, Marco Rubio Propose ‘Plans’ to Replace Obamacare

By Jonathan Chait
New York Magazine, August 18, 2015

Today, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio have published plans — really, not so much plans as skeletal descriptions of planlike concepts — to replace Obamacare. Appealing to the general election requires them to promise something to compensate the victims of repeal. How will they fund that something? This is the basic problem that for decades has prevented Republicans from offering a health-care plan. Rubio and Walker show that they still have no answer.

The main reason people lacked insurance before Obamacare is that they did not have enough money to afford it. Some of those uninsured people had unusually high health costs. Some of them had unusually low incomes. Boiled down, Obamacare transferred resources from people who are rich and healthy to people who are poor and sick, so the poor and sick people can afford insurance.

Walker and Rubio are fairly clear about their plans for regulating the insurance market. They want to go back to the pre-Obamacare, deregulated system. They’d eliminate the requirements that insurance plans cover essential benefits, and let them charge higher prices to sicker customers. That’s good for people who have very limited medical needs (as long as they never obtain a serious medical condition, or have a family with somebody with a serious medical condition). It’s bad for people who have, or ever will have, higher medical needs.

Both Walker and Rubio promise to take care of people with preexisting conditions by creating separate “high-risk pools.” That is a special kind of insurance market for people with expensive medical conditions. As you may have guessed, insurance for people with expensive medical needs is, well, expensive. Making that insurance affordable therefore requires lots of subsidies from the government. Where would Walker and Rubio get the money for that? They don’t say.

Both Walker and Rubio propose to cut funding for Medicaid, but this doesn’t create much room to subsidize coverage, since Medicaid is already much cheaper than Medicare or private insurance. Republicans are willing to cut Medicaid because they’re generally willing to cut programs for term paper that focus on the very poor, but there’s not much blood to be drawn from this stone.

It is tempting to treat the lack of specifics in the Republican health-care plans as a problem of details to be filled it. But it is not a side problem. It is the entire problem. They will not finance real insurance for the people who have gotten it under Obamacare, nor will they face up to the actual costs they’re willing to impose on people. The party is doctrinally opposed to every available method to make insurance available to people who can’t afford it. They have spent six years promising to come up with an alternative plan, and they haven’t done it, because they can’t.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/08/walker-rubio-obamacare-repl…

Much has been written this week about the proposals of presidential candidates Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Marco Rubio for replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) once it is repealed. Most articles discuss the few specifics of their proposals that they have provided, but Jonathan Chait’s stands out because he describes the underlying fundamental flaw common to all conservative proposals for reform: for everyone to have affordable access to health care, there must be a large transfer from the healthy to the sick and from the wealthy to those with lower incomes, and the conservative proposals fall far short on the size and direction of the transfers that are needed.

Chait exits the topic leaving ACA in place, but there is more to be said. Although ACA actually did expand the necessary transfers, it still falls short of what is needed, plus too many inequities are perpetuated. Patches to ACA would still leave in place the fundamentally flawed infrastructure, and the Republican replacements are even more fundamentally flawed because they would worsen the financial barriers to care, especially by failing to include adequate transfers in their models.

A much more efficient and equitable method of achieving the necessary transfers would be to enact a single payer national health program. If the Republicans really do want a better replacement for Obamacare, maybe they should seriously consider single payer.