Analyst to Newsmax: Alternative Would Alleviate Obamacare Pain

Tuesday, 18 Mar 2014 04:37 PM

By Jennifer G. Hickey

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As GOP House members spend the coming weeks trying to finalize an alternative to Obamacare, "Republicans need to be focused on the aspects of the law that are most upsetting for people," says John C. Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis.

"Basically, we need to find the worst things about Obamacare and propose ways to fix them that will have a real, measurable effect on people's lives," Goodman told Newsmax.

Goodman, who has been providing counsel to some Republicans in Congress, says the GOP caucus needs to coalesce around a few core principles.

First and foremost, any alternative should concentrate on increasing choice, which means ending the individual mandate requiring the purchase of health insurance, Goodman said.

Other priorities should include restoring fairness to the healthcare system by offering every American an annual tax credit worth $2,500 and every child a credit worth $1,500 as long as they purchase "credible private health insurance," regardless of where it is obtained.

This would address the inconsistent application of Obamacare subsidies and the arbitrary nature in which they are applied. If the government is going to subsidize insurance, it should not be arbitrary and everyone should be treated the same, Goodman said.

Equally important, Goodman argues, is to target the disincentives in the Affordable Care Act that result in employers' reducing workers' hours or pay.

The plan also should have a component addressing portability and removing provisions in Obamacare that prevent employees from carrying their insurance to their next job.

"Jobs and healthcare are inherently connected through Obamacare, which is why we need to get rid of the mandate which creates the incentive for businesses to hold off expanding their workforce or move people into part-time jobs," he said.

Building on the principles he outlined in a National Review article, Goodman plans to present the details of his proposal on the NCPA's website within the next 30 days, he told Newsmax.

Republicans "need to stop talking about general principles of offering insurance across state lines and association health plans and medical malpractice. Those are issues on the periphery. They might be politically popular and make good electoral strategy; they are not the solutions," Goodman said.

In the National Review article, Goodman said, "To promote universal health insurance, we could allow everyone — regardless of income — to enroll in Medicaid, and at the same time allow everyone on Medicaid to leave the program, claim the tax credit, and buy private insurance."

"This proposal may appear to be unconservative, but in fact it is consistent with minimizing the role of government," Goodman wrote. "Medicaid would be an insurer of last resort, but beyond their uniform tax credit, people who are not poor but enroll in Medicaid would not be getting an entitlement. They would have to pay their own way."

A Republican leadership staffer told Newsmax that the work on an Obamacare alternative by the House GOP caucus is "not in the [legislative] process discussion yet, but we are discussing specific policy ideas around which to build consensus. This is all part of an ongoing discussion for the last several months as we have considered the way forward."

The Republican plan will include expanding high-risk insurance pools and health savings accounts, medical malpractice reform, and incentives for small businesses to purchase coverage, reports the Washington Post.

Other think-tank experts offered advice about how the Republicans should move ahead with a healthcare alternative.

"What they actually need to do is start coalescing around a few key elements and enact them on a step-by-step basis rather than as part of a comprehensive bill," said Robert Moffit, a senior fellow in the Heritage Foundation's Center for Policy Innovation.

"Equally important, conservatives and Republicans need to involve the public in a very profound and transparent way to ensure a smooth transition from Obamacare to an alternative system," Moffit told Newsmax.

Noting the legislative and regulatory chaos that has been created by Obamacare, Moffitt said Republicans have to be careful and thorough about their proposals.

"Number one, they have to craft the legislation in a manner that is technically competent, and number two, it has to be consequential and have a real and positive effect on the lives of Americans, particularly those on the margins who are feeling real anxiety," Moffit said.

The Americans on the margins are those persons and households whose income is near 400 percent of the federal poverty level and who will lose their subsidies if their income exceeds that level by even one dollar.

Yevgeniy Feyman, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said healthcare fixes, such as health savings accounts and medical malpractice reform, are good ideas but have limited impact, and congressional Republicans should concentrate on fixing the parts of the law that are inflicting the most pain on Americans.

"You have to get rid of the employer mandate because, frankly, it has no business being in healthcare reform at all, and that is something that healthcare advocates and economists have agreed upon. When you end the mandate, you are getting rid of the disincentive to hire people and it would take a significant cost burden off their plates," Feyman told Newsmax.

Feyman also said Republicans need to ensure that their attempted healthcare fix will be economically sound.

"When it comes to the GOP proposal on healthcare, they are going to have to sell it on two basic points — that it will insure more Americans than Obamacare, and that their proposals minimize the negative economic consequences and disincentives of Obamacare. It has to be sold in the context that jobs and the economy will remain the priority issues in the election," Feyman said.


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