I know, I know – it seems like it’s the summer of piling on GOP Senator Roy Blunt. But what can you do with a politician who tries to pretend that policies are nothing more than procedural exercises that parties win or loose, the welfare of everyday citizens, people who depend on him, be damned?
The latest example of Blunt’s approach to legislating is the Senate’s newly reworked version of Trumpcare, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). Our Roy thinks that “it’s in the best shape it’s been in so far […] Now that members actually have paper in their hand they can look at what is likely to be very close to the final bill we’ll be voting on and move forward.”
In the best shape it’s been so far. Indeed. And what does “best shape” mean in this context”? Is Blunt really saying that he thinks it’s actually better as a healthcare bill than it was before? Or is he just optimistic about the fact that it’s been taken into back rooms and worked over as fully as is possible in order to buy the votes of craven GOPers who want to have their cake (win their next election) and eat it too (not get primaried)?
My money’s on the second option. Why? Blunt isn’t dumb enough to believe the first.
Today we learn that even insurers who, as a group, have mostly kept quiet on the topic, are appalled at what the GOP is proposing to foist off on Americans as a substitute for the flawed but functional Obamacare. Specifically, the Cruz Amendment, formally known as the Consumer Freedom Option, has them in a tizzy. The Cruz Amendment would permit insurers that sell Obamacare policies to offer plans that don’t conform to the Obamacare standards mandating minimal levels of coverage, including protections for those with preexisting conditions, as long as they include at least one offering that is conformant.
The CEOs of America’s Health Insurance Plans and the BlueCross BlueShield Association let it all hang out in a letter released today, the Cruz amendment “is simply unworkable in any form” they write, “and would undermine protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions, increase premiums and lead to widespread terminations of coverage for people currently enrolled in the individual market.”
The insurers are far from placated by the pretense that the bill would create “high risk pools”:
… We also firmly believe that the dedicated funding included in the bill to address the cost of plans that cover people with pre-existing medical conditions is insufficient and additional funding will not make the provision workable for consumers or taxpayers
As healthy people move to the less-regulated plans, those with significant medical needs will have no choice but to stay in the comprehensive plans, and premiums will skyrocket for people with preexisting conditions. This would especially impact middle-income families that that are not eligible for a tax credit. Taxpayers will pay more to finance federal tax credits for the individuals in comprehensive plans and these costs will continue to increase, even with dedicated funding. Risk adjustment is also critical to making the individual market sustainable, but can only work when there are uniform benefit requirements across the market.
Finally, this provision will lead to far fewer, if any, coverage options for consumers who purchase their plan in the individual market. As a result, millions of more individuals will become uninsured.
But, hey, Roy Blunt thinks that giving goodies to a few moderate Republicans so that they can try to save face with the folks they’re planning to shaft, along with the addition of this Cruz amendment, has insured that the bill’s in the “best shape” ever.