The Publicity Stunt


The Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan (R-WI), was clearly agitated.  The Democrats were holding a sit-in on the House floor in order to push for a vote on gun control legislation.  He later labeled the protest, led by civil rights icon John Lewis (D-GA), a publicity stunt.  And he was right.  The Democrats became the major story of the day thus overshadowing a different publicity stunt, Speaker Ryan’s attempt to grab attention earlier in the day.

This being Health Insurance Issues With Dave, we will give Speaker Ryan the attention he craves. Announcing the G.O.P.’s A Better Way. Our Vision For a Confident America.

Yes, it’s here. Thirty-seven pages of pure Conservative legislative joy.  Here is the link.  Better yet, here is the link to the one page summary.  You probably won’t want to waste your time on the long version once you’ve taken a peek at the summary.

The summary is one page, bullet point laden, and facts optional. It promises a Republican Plan that retains all of the things you like from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), such as guaranteed access and dependent care to age 26, without any of the costs.  Really, no tax increases.  Zero!  The Republicans feel that codifying the Hyde Amendment is also a major selling point.  And speaking of selling points, the summary never mentions President Obama or Obamacare.  Instead, Obamacare is renamed “Speaker Pelosi’s Bill”.  The full version isn’t much better.

Speaker Ryan is very proud to announce that this 37 page outline of ideal, goals, and wishful thinking is the first plan universally endorsed by all of the Republican leaders in the House. It isn’t really supposed to be a plan.  When asked, leadership has labeled it a “White Paper”.  I actually printed out and read the full presentation.  It is the only way to know that Speaker Ryan forgot to estimate the cost of his programs or that he is pushing Medicare to age 67 (page 36).

A Better Way is really an organized collection of the Republican’s greatest hits of the last six years.  We rejected most of these ideas as inconsequential then.  They aren’t more relevant repackaged today.  Part of the problem is the refusal to face the realities of the insurance marketplace and the inclusion of information that is laughably false.

Here are the five principles of A Better Way:

  1. Repeal Obamacare
  2. Provide All Americans with more choices, lower costs, and greater flexibility
  3. Protect our nation’s most vulnerable
  4. Spur innovation in health care
  5. Protect and preserve Medicare

Protect our nation’s most vulnerable. Patients with pre-existing conditions, loved ones struggling with complex medical needs, and other vulnerable Americans should have access to high-quality and affordable coverage options.  Obamacare’s solution was to force millions of people onto Medicaid…

No, it didn’t.

The PPACA eliminated medical underwriting. We no longer ask health questions when you apply for coverage.  Pre-existing conditions are covered completely.  And the premium for your insurance policy no longer reflects your previous claims or medical conditions.  Medicaid, where expanded, allowed additional lower income individuals and families to acquire coverage regardless of their health.  Statements like the one above call into question the seriousness of the document.

And how does A Better Way deal with our most vulnerable?  Badly.  This plan reintroduces medical underwriting and suggests that we reinstate state run High Risk Pools.  The Republicans strongly criticized the transitional High Risk Pools of Obamacare.  They were, in part, correct.  Five Billion Dollars wasn’t enough even though this was just for the transition to the full implementation of the new law.  This program offers Twenty-five Billion Dollars (from where?) and walks away from the unhealthy.

Here are a few of the other highlights of Speaker Ryan’s plan:

  • No requirement to have any health insurance policy
  • No Coverage Standards (under or over age 65!)
  • An age based refundable tax credit to replace the income based subsidies
  • Adjust premium ratio to 5 – 1
  • A significant overhaul of Medicare
  • Changing the onset of Medicare to that of the Social Security Retirement Age.

It is important to note that Obamacare is far from perfect and that some of the ideas included in A Better Way might help the law to work better.  That is, of course, ruled out immediately by Speaker Ryan and his team.  It is this unwillingness to work with the President that makes all of these documents wasteful publicity stunts.



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