Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker ran into a little trouble last week. He told a national television audience that voters should look past the Trump “media frenzy,” go to his campaign website, and pay attention to all the substantive policy details.
The trouble, of course, was that his website, at least at the time, didn’t have a single policy detail anywhere. There wasn’t even an issues page. Walker was directing voters to resources that didn’t exist.
To his credit, that changed yesterday. Walker’s first real policy rollout of the year brought us the Wisconsin governor’s plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. There’s even something resembling a policy paper available for public review.
Like every other GOP reform plan, Walker’s pitch includes all the predictable clichés – tort reform, high-risk pools, insurance sales across state lines, HSA expansion – that serve as staples of every Republican scheme. It also includes some (very) modest subsidies, which vary based on age, not income.
But as Jeffrey Young and Jonathan Cohn explained, there’s a root challenge the Wisconsin Republican makes no real effort to address.
By scrapping President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul, Walker’s plan … would take away health coverage from some unknowable share of the millions of people who have gained it under Obamacare. It promotes benefits like less regulation and less federal spending on health insurance, as well as cheaper coverage for some young and healthy people. But like all the other Republican “repeal and replace” plans that have appeared in the last few years, Walker’s proposal never acknowledges the trade-offs and consequences of these changes.
It’s true that Walker’s plan is arguably the most detailed “Obamacare” alternative any GOP candidate has produced – and that includes the 2012 field – though this isn’t necessarily high praise, since we’re really just talking about a vague outline with a few more bullet points than the usual bumper-sticker plans health care wonks have been rolling their eyes at for years.
Is the plan any good at providing health security? For some, maybe – if you’re wealthy, healthy, and have no intention of ever seeking medical care, Scott Walker’s vision of health care reform would very likely meet your needs quite well.
But for everyone else, this plan is almost dangerously misguided.
For example, when Walker talks about “repealing Obamacare,” he’s not just nibbling around the edges – the far-right governor intends to eliminate every benefit that millions of families are currently enjoying. Practically every consumer protection, every tax break, and every safeguard would simply cease to be – regardless of efficacy or popularity.
In its place, American consumers would left with something vastly worse. Protections for those with pre-existing conditions would be severely weakened. Subsidies for private coverage would be paltry and ultimately useless. Untold millions would lose the security they currently enjoy, all in the name of “freedom.”
Of course, Walker wasn’t the only one talking about health care yesterday. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) published a Politico op-ed sketching out his own reform package. Alert readers may have noticed the similarities between it and a related piece the far-right senator wrote for Fox News a few months ago – much of it was copied, word for word.
It’s difficult to delve too deeply into the details, because Rubio doesn’t offer any – it’s a fairly short, wildly dishonest op-ed – but the Florida Republican seems to envision a system in which consumers pay more for worse coverage, predicated on the assumption that under the pre-ACA model, American consumers had it too good.
The Walker and Rubio plans are fairly similar, and Jon Chait flagged the key element that defines both policies: “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.”
There was some chatter yesterday that the unveiling of these ideas was part of an effort to change the direction of the 2016 conversation – away from the Trump circus and towards actual Republican policy ideas. As much as I’d like to believe that, I actually assume the opposite – Walker and Rubio want credit for having some shadow of an idea about a major national issue, but they rolled out their health care plans in mid-August, when the political world’s attention was elsewhere, probably hoping few would look closely at their ridiculous proposals.
Because the fact of the matter is, there simply aren’t enough rich, healthy families in the nation to rally behind plans like these. If Americans ever took a good, long look at the Walker and Rubio plans and voted accordingly, the GOP candidates would lose every state.