The GOP “Alternative” To The ACA Is A Political Ploy, Not A Real Plan
News broke last night of a health care proposal from a group of influential Republicans. Mainstream media outlets from The New York Times to The Washington Post billed it as an “alternative to Obamacare” and the GOP’s plan to “repeal and replace” the law. While that is certainly what the GOP would like the public to think, those evaluations are misleading and incorrect. In fact, this is not a real plan, but rather a political ploy to influence the Supreme Court in their upcoming decision in King v. Burwell.
Let’s take the so-called “alternative” on its face. First of all, three people writing an op-ed and a memo is not a plan to replace a law that is working and providing benefits and protections to hundreds of millions of Americans, including nearly 10 million Americans who have obtained quality, affordable coverage through the marketplaces.
Second, the contents of the proposal demonstrate that its not a serious alternative, because it will dramatically increase costs for lower-income people who can least afford care. The proposal has no essential health benefits, no minimum plan value, no out of pocket limits, no subsidies for cost sharing, and meager tax credits. It would eliminate the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and gut the pre-existing Medicaid program, leaving millions of low-income people currently covered by Medicaid uninsured. And it would go back to the days where insurers could charge women more than men.
Third, we’ve heard this tune before. GOP leaders have promised their own replacement plans dozens of times, and in none of those circumstances has the party passed one of them — let alone voted on, held hearings for, or even coalesced around one. After five years of promises, there is no reason to think that this time will be any different.
Ultimately, factoring in the context of the current health care debate is where the true strategy of Republicans in Congress becomes clear. As the Supreme Court considers the latest attack on the Affordable Care Act in King v. Burwell, opponents of the law are convinced that the high court will be more likely to strike it down if they have a replacement plan at the ready to mitigate the chaos and meltdown of the health care system. One of the intellectual architects of the 2012 Supreme Court challenge to the ACA has shared the belief that the justices would be more likely to rule against the law if they knew there would a “viable alternative.” And since Republicans have shut down the option of an easy legislative fix if it were necessary, that means they need to create the aura that there’s something else.
Regardless of whatever proposals House and Senate Republicans want to talk about, the fact is that the fate of the health care system rests solely in the hands of nine Supreme Court Justices. To reject the government’s defense of the law, which was commonly accepted just a few years ago by many of the current opponents, would cripple the high court’s reputation as an institution above politics. As Linda Greenhouse writes in a must-read opinion piece for the New York Times, “overturning Obamacare would change the nature of the Supreme Court.” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) has said it would be a “stunning act of judicial overreach.”
BOTTOM LINE: The latest GOP health care proposal is just another tactic to accomplish what has been the party’s real goal for years: to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Republicans have not been able to do it electorally or legislatively, so now they are turning to the Courts. No amount of political posturing from congressional Republicans is going to change the very real stakes facing the Supreme Court justices. A ruling for the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell would not only fly in the face of the ACA and legal precedent, but the entire U.S. health care system and the millions of Americans benefiting from the ACA — click here to see the profiles of several of them.
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