Republicans Have Already Voted for Healthcare Mandates

Monday, May 21st, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Obamacare

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Last week, we noted that Republicans have long voiced their support for government mandates on health insurance companies – the very socialist interventions that have engendered this unsustainable bubble in healthcare inflation.  Well, I forgot to mention one important detail.  Republican leadership has already laid out draft legislation that contains many of these mandates.  In fact, that legislation received a vote on the House floor on November 7, 2009.  And only 3 Republicans voted against it.

November 7, 2009 was the day the Pelosi-run House passed the original Obamacare bill (HR 3962).  As is the case with most major bills, the minority is afforded the right to offer a “Motion to Recommit.”  This is a standard procedure in the House in which the minority offers an alternative that would return the bill to the committee for the purpose of replacing the content of the bill with something totally new.  The Republicans offered their MTR as an alternative to provide coverage for the uninsured.  Now, the bill did contain some good reforms such as malpractice reform, but it also contained onerous mandates, including the slacker mandate to require insurance companies to cover children of applicants until they are 26.  And while it didn’t require insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, it did require states to create programs for that purpose.

Here is the summary from the Republican Study Committee:

Republican Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute: The rule provides for the consideration of an amendment in the nature of a substitute by Rep. Boehner, which would create “Universal Access Programs” (expanded and reformed high-risk/reinsurance pools) that would to guarantee access to affordable care for all Americans, regardless of pre-existing conditions or past illnesses. The Republican Substitute would eliminate annual or lifetime caps on insurance, prevent rescission of insurance policies (except in the cause of fraud), and allow young dependent adults to stay on their parent’s health care plan until the age of 26.

The Republican substitute amendment enacts real medical liability reforms by allowing caps on
non-economic damages, encourages greater competition by allowing individuals to shop for
insurance across state lines, and creates Associated Health Plans (AHPs) allowing small
businesses to pool together to gain greater market power and offer health care at lower prices.
The amendment also provides new incentive payments for states that are able reduce premiums
and the number of uninsured and expands HSAs. Finally, the legislation codifies the Hyde
amendment so that it explicitly prohibits all Federal funds from being used to pay for abortion.
According to CBO, the amendment would cost $61 billion, yet reduce the deficit by $68 billion
over the ten year budget window. (60 minutes of total debate)

You can also view the Republican bill in the Congressional Record (pages H12963-H12966).  Here are some key sections.

Section 101: Establish universal access programs to improve high risk pools and resinsurance markets.

The bill requires States establish either a functioning high risk pool or a resinsurance program and provides $25 billion in federal funding for these programs.  Insurance offered through these programs will ensure everyone has access to affordable health care, regardless of their health status.  States will have to eliminate high risk pool waiting lines and premiums for enrollees in high risk pools would be limited to 150% of the average premium charged in a State (currently capped at 200%).  The Democrats’ bill explicitly allows for waiting lines.

Section 103: No annual or lifetime spending caps.

The bill prohibits health plans from arbitrary annual or lifetime spending caps, thereby protecting individuals with a catastrophic diagnosis or chronic disease by ensuring health plans meet their obligations to those with the most expensive medical needs.

Section 211: Extending coverage to dependents.

If a health insurance plan offers coverage to dependents, then the plan must cover dependents up through their 25th birthday.  The provision provides parents with the ability to keep their children on their health plan through young adulthood, thereby increasing young adults’ access to affordable health coverage.  Young adults shouldn’t lose their coverage simply because they needed 5 years to complete college or were unable to find a job after graduation.

Wow – this is a real bold-colored difference between the Democrat approach and the free market approach to healthcare/sarcasm off.  As I noted last week, it’s not clear whether Republicans lack a full understanding of the free market or whether they simply lack the communication skills and fortitude to articulate free market positions to the public.  I suspect that with most members there are elements of both.

The Motion to Recommit that contained this Republican alternative bill garnered the support of all but three Republicans.  Now, I don’t begrudge Republicans for voting for it.  After all, the main point of an MTR is to kill the underlying bill.  However, it is clear that any proposal from the GOP leadership to reform healthcare will not be unvarnished from harmful government mandates.

We need to be prepared to battle them over these mandates and full repeal of Obamacare.  Then, we must educate them on the details of true free market health policy.