Popular health care protections on GOP chopping block

Wait until Tom Price is writing health care policy in 2013.
Wait until Tom Price is writing health care policy in 2013.
Associated Press

A national New York Times/CBS News poll recently asked respondents whether they approve of a specific provision in the Affordable Care Act: protections for those with pre-existing conditions. It was the single most popular element of “Obamacare” – a whopping 85% approve of the measure.

Keep in mind, these days, 85% of Americans don’t agree on much of anything, but they all like this.

That may not matter. Many Republican policymakers, if they succeed in destroying the entirely of the Affordable Care Act, have every intention of ending these wildly popular protections. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), a member of the House GOP leadership and a point man for the party on health policy, said this week the provision is “a terrible idea.”

This matters because a Republican White House, working with a Republican Congress, will roll back the clock on health care reform, pursuing a “repeal and replace” strategy. What would the GOP would replace Obamacare with, exactly? Sahil Kapur reported yesterday:

The pre-existing conditions rule is broadly popular with the public, even among Republicans. But the policy will collapse unless healthy people also enter the insurance pool, spreading costs and defraying risks — that’s the purpose of the less popular individual mandate and subsidies that are also a part of “Obamacare.” […]

That’s why Republicans are struggling to come up with an alternative they can broadly support: To date, “Obamacare” remains the most comprehensive free-market approach to tackling the free-rider problem while giving Americans a financial stake in their health care.

The GOP is committed to killing the Affordable Care Act, despite its similarities to previous Republican proposals, despite its reliance on a free-market approach, and despite the popularity of its specific provisions. This leaves Republicans in an unpleasant spot: they’ve sworn to eliminate every letter of the reform law, but they know Americans won’t like their alternative.

Protections for those with pre-existing conditions, for example, will disappear. Republicans also oppose the Obamacare provision that requires coverage for young adults up to age 26. Contraception access, obviously, will be curtailed for millions, as will coverage for low-income children. Medicare’s prescription drug “donut hole” will return, too.

This isn’t some liberal caricature of the GOP plan; this is what Republicans freely admit they want to do if voters give them the opportunity to govern.

In the meantime, Obamacare is working pretty well. It’s already saving seniors billions of dollars, and yielding new benefits for consumers, including $1.3 billion in rebates.

It’s also combating fraud and abuse, which in turns saves Americans quite a bit of money; has brought coverage to 2.5 million young adults; is giving a boost to small businesses through ACA tax credits; has slowed the growth of Medicare spending; has provided new treatment options for cancer patients; and, of course, has offered new coverage protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

To those Americans who’ve been convinced that destroying Obamacare will do wonders for American families, be careful what you wish for.

Tom Price, Affordable Care Act and Obamacare

Popular health care protections on GOP chopping block