Remember when it looked like the Republican Party could do nothing but stamp its feet and shout about the Affordable Care Act’s shortcomings without coming up with any alternatives?
OK, there was former Sen. Jim DeMint’s suggestion last summer that having the uninsured continue to abuse emergency-room services due to a lack of options would work better than President Barack Obama’s health insurance reform. And conservatives enjoy boasting about how many ideas for overhauling the nation’s health insurance system the GOP has lobbed over the years into what it might call the marketplace of ideas.
Since none achieved any traction, the Republicans in Congress are trying again.
Maybe this escaped your attention. After all, Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010 and it’s now being implemented regardless of those 47 House repeal votes. Perhaps you heard about its rocky roll-out? Warts and all, major government programs are as easy to revoke as it is to get toothpaste back into the tube.
Plus, four years is a long time, especially when news cycles are so short that blinking means missing out on key developments like Justin Bieber’s latest travails.
The GOP is moving ahead anyway with new plans to replace the Affordable Care Act that are sure to go nowhere in our gridlocked Congress. A trio of Senate Republicans is leading the way with a new approach that upholds the party’s unofficial allegiance to the “WeDon’tCare” creed.
That’s the term Jim Hightower has used to describe Rep. Paul Ryan’s dream of converting Medicare into a privatized voucher scheme.
WeDon’tCare also serves as the Republican approach to many other urgent problems dogging the United States. Intractable unemployment? Rising hunger? Pollution? Climate change? The GOP just doesn’t care.
Maybe you do care and wish Republicans would, too. But this policy does have plenty to offer. It’s versatile, consistent, and great for time management.
The GOP’s WeDon’tCare policy is very attractive for lawmakers who might have better things to do with their time than get bogged down in petty problems. Rather than grapple with issues that are making the lives of millions of Americans who can’t afford to make campaign contributions miserable, lawmakers free up time for other activities. Like golf. And taking free trips to France.
The new Republican plan probably won’t save any more tax dollars than the Affordable Care Act and might actually save less. It won’t shock you to hear that it’s structurally very similar to the system often called Obamacare except that its subsidies would be financed more by working families and less by taxes on corporations and the very rich.
Under this new plan, outlined in legislation introduced by Republican Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, insurance companies wouldn’t have to cover preventive care any more. Once again, insurers could charge women more than men. Unlike with the Affordable Care Act, the vast majority of Americans insured through their workplace would start paying more for their coverage.
I bet there’s a good chance that you would care if this ever got enacted. You might even get angry.
What about House Republicans? Majority Leader Eric Cantor says they’re on it, with Representatives Dave Camp and Fred Upton — both with Michigan seats — and John Kline of Minnesota taking the lead. If you’d like some specifics, you’ll have to wait a bit longer since apparently they need more time.
Why are they even bothering?
“Pointing and laughing at the failures of Obamacare will not be a sufficient governing vision,” conservative Michael Gerson observed in one of his recent columns.
Something more, in other words, is required to win back the White House. Having a presumed front-runner for the Republican nomination who isn’t embroiled in a career-killing scandal would be helpful.
But if the GOP really wants to fare better in the 2016 presidential election than it did in 2008 and 2012, Republicans will need to ditch their WeDon’tCare platform on health insurance and other issues voters care about.
Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies.