Between the Democratic sit-in on the floor of the House and England’s EU Brexit vote, it was easy to miss the Republicans rolling out their healthcare plan last week.
So in case you missed it, we’ve put together a synopsis.
The most important thing to note is that the Republican plan is still a broad concept – there is no pricetag and there are few details yet. But in essence, it eliminates Obamacare’s mandate requiring health insurance and the tax subsidies that help low income Americans pay for it. It eliminates the requirements that large employers provide health insurance and it eliminates the Medicaid expansion, as well as national standards for health plans. It also, of course, eliminates the federal health insurance exchange.
In short, it eliminates Obamacare.
The Republican plan instead offers a refundable tax credit for those who can’t get employer insurance. It expands private health savings accounts and it allows insurance companies to charge young people less and old people more.
It also funnels the most expensive patients into subsidized “high-risk pools,” which is the opposite of the Obamacare plan. Obamacare forces broad participation in the system, ensuring that most subscribers are relatively healthy and thus subsidize those who aren’t. The GOP plan would spend $25 billion over 10 years in federal funding for the sickest patients, keeping them out of the general insurance population to keep the costs down for everyone else.
And of course, the Republican plan would restructure Medicaid and Medicare, likely by making coverage cuts, although that detail isn’t clear yet either.
The GOP didn’t put a price tag on its plan as a whole, but it’s likely less than Bernie Sanders’ recently released plan, which nonpartisans have estimated will cost $33 trillion over the next decade.
Of course it’s all an exercise in academic debate at this point. Bernie isn’t going to win the Democratic nomination and the GOP healthcare plan isn’t going anywhere, especially now that Democrats have proved willing, at least for the time being, to steal the show and seize a debate.
It does, however, show that even with everything else that politicians have to fight over — often more publicly and spectacularly — healthcare remains at the heart of the economy, the political system and the national conversation.