As the Senate continues to work on its health care bill, the legislation continues to move further and further away from full repeal of ObamaCare and the fundamental goal of the freedom for all Americans to choose their doctors, care, and methods of insuring themselves.
Whether it’s reinstating some of the ObamaCare taxes, further delaying the repeal of Medicaid’s enhanced federal match rate, or total aversion to states being able to regulate their insurance markets outside of the ObamaCare framework, the Senate debate is shaping up to be more moving around of the proverbial deck chairs.
Congress should be fully repealing ObamaCare. Short of that, they should at minimum repeal ObamaCare’s onerous regulatory architecture responsible for causing such financial disruption for patients and providers.
However, there is a significant concern materializing in the context of this debate that will be front and center very soon. That’s the potential for Senate leadership to attempt to bail out insurers in the name of “stabilizing” the ObamaCare exchanges.
Far too little attention has been paid to statements by some senior lawmakers to prop up insurers utilizing billions in taxpayer funds. While the Senate bill already includes a new and highly problematic $112 billion stability slush fund, the unconstitutional cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) are increasingly being touted as essential for “stabilizing” the ObamaCare exchanges.
As a reminder, the CSR payments were never authorized by Congress and have never received an appropriation, nor should they ever receive one. The Obama administration unconstitutionally provided these funds to insurers after ObamaCare was implemented in 2013 to offset spiking costs due to the sudden increase in the number of sick people on the exchanges. Congress rightfully filed a lawsuit arguing the administration had overstepped its bounds.
Now, senior Republican senators want to continue these unconstitutional payments (the ones they previously sued to stop) because of the rapidly deteriorating ObamaCare exchanges. This is both poor policy and utter hypocrisy. It is also a greasing the skids toward single-payer, government-run health care.
Keep in mind that ObamaCare’s coverage mandates and regulations forced insurers to meet certain requirements that have driven up the cost of care, narrowed networks, and resulted in billions of dollars in financial losses for carriers in the exchanges. The answer by the central planners in Washington has been to utilize taxpayer dollars to subsidize these losses and coerce insurers to remain in a highly-regulated system.
Such a morally repugnant scheme is entirely unnecessary and avoidable. Congress should be fully repealing ObamaCare. Short of that, they should at minimum repeal ObamaCare’s onerous regulatory architecture responsible for causing such financial disruption for patients and providers. Indeed, the Texas Public Policy Foundation has even suggested as a compromise a pathway for states to re-adopt these provisions if they so choose.
But more importantly, if Congress wants to prevent a single-payer system, it should not appropriate the CSR payments and should also repeal the poorly conceived Patient and State Stability Fund.
As insurers become more and more reliant on taxpayer funding for their bottom line, America moves closer toward a single-payer, government-run health care system. Any senator who supports the false notion that the cost-sharing reduction payments or the Patient and State Stability fund are needed for “stability” will ultimately be complicit in destroying free-market health care for good and creating a health care system that mirrors the DMV.
For those following the Charlie Gard tragedy, such a government-run system ultimately leads to bureaucrats determining the value of both your care and your life—and ultimately taking decision-making out of your hands and putting it in the hands of the system.
All Americans should have the best health care in the world and lawmakers should make good on the promises they have made for over seven years so that an actual market can emerge to deliver better care at lower costs. That begins with repealing the premium-busting regulations, but what shouldn’t be lost in any of the debate over repeal is the critically important need for the Senate to put a permanent end to the notion that taxpayers should subsidize the profits of insurers.
We must not continue to have insurers serve as nothing more than another long arm of the state. Single payer health care is hardly distinguishable from that involving highly subsidized “third parties,” and yet that is precisely where the current GOP train is heading.
Chip Roy is the Director of the Center for Tenth Amendment Action and Drew White is Senior Federal Policy Analyst—both at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.