Just yesterday, three Republican senators co-authored a Washington Post op-ed
saying Americans need not fear GOP justices on the Supreme Court gutting the Affordable Care Act. "We have a plan for fixing health care," they boasted, reassuringly.
Upon further inspection, however, the "plan" lacked something important: a plan
. The Republican senators had some pleasant sounding platitudes and vague goals, but to describe the op-ed as a credible policy solution is silly.
A day later, three leading House Republican committee chairs -- Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and John Kline (R-Minn.) -- were equally proud to announce
this morning that they have "a sane health-care alternative" to the dreaded "Obamacare."
[After the Supreme Court tears down the current system] the question is: Then what? What about the people who will lose their subsidies --- and possibly their coverage? No family should pay for this administration's overreach. That is why House Republicans have formed a working group to propose a way out for the affected states if the court rules against the administration. What we will propose is an off-ramp out of ObamaCare toward patient-centered health care. It has two parts: First, make insurance more affordable by ending Washington mandates and giving choice back to states, individuals and families. And second, support Americans in purchasing the coverage of their choosing.
Oh, good. There's a "working group" with an "off-ramp." Americans who'll soon no longer be able to afford chemotherapy will no doubt be thrilled.
Jonathan Bernstein asked this afternoon, "Just how stupid does Paul Ryan think we are?" The answer, I suspect, is that Paul Ryan isn't thinking about us at all -- he's trying to persuade Republican Supreme Court justices to work as an extension of the GOP policymaking apparatus. The endgame is denying people health care coverage; nothing else really matters.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities took a closer look
at this new "off-ramp" and came away with some sadly predictable conclusions.
Like the recent proposal from three Senate Republicans, this latest "plan" is very vague, but what we know about it strongly suggests that it would make coverage much less affordable, particularly for people who are older or in poorer health. [...] In short, under the Kline-Ryan-Upton plan, many people, especially those aged 50-64 and those in poorer-than-average health, would likely pay much more than under current law, and any subsidies would likely prove highly inadequate over time. This, in turn, would reverse health reform's dramatic progress in reducing the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured by (1) forcing millions of people to go without coverage and (2) forcing many others to get by with skimpy coverage or face deductibles and co-pays they can't afford and, hence, go without needed care.
Of course, the goal here is not to present a real policy proposal. Rather, as we discussed
yesterday, the reason op-eds like these exist is to persuade an extremely narrow audience: namely, nine people in robes who'll decide whether tens of millions of families can afford to go to a doctor when they need one.
Republican members of Congress are trying to give Supreme Court justices some breathing room. "Side with the plaintiffs in this genuinely pathetic lawsuit," GOP lawmakers are signaling, "and we'll take care of everything else."
Republican justices on the high court may think twice about tearing down the American health care system, given the scope and scale of the consequences for families, hospitals, insurers, physicians, etc. It's up to GOP politicians, then, to add fiction on top of fiction -- the first falsehood is that ACA architects intended to deny subsidies to healthcare.gov customers; the second falsehood is that a Republican Congress will protect those customers from adverse consequences if the Supreme Court guts the law in a few months.
It is a transparent scam, but if GOP justices are looking for an excuse, that may not matter.
: Another possible reason for Ryan & Co. to publish op-eds like these is to get favorable headlines. The Hill told readers
today, "House GOP unveils replacement plan, if ObamaCare goes down" In reality, that's not quite true, but I'm sure Ryan's office was delighted to see it anyway.