Well, the “bipartisan” health care deal is pretty much what you would expect when the Republican involved is Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee). Democrats get to spend more money and keep Obamacare intact while Republicans get something only if they fool themselves into thinking they get something. President Trump initially said he would support the deal, but now appears to have changed his mind after learning the details.
The deal—negotiated by Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington)—restores the cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies that President Trump discontinued last week. President Obama had instituted the payments even though they were unconstitutional. Under Obamacare, Congress must authorize the payments. Congress never did, so, like any good lefty, Obama said, “Screw the Constitution.” When Trump did the right thing last week, liberals threw a hissy fit and Democratic State Attorney Generals filed suit to restore the payments. (Yeah, good luck with that.) In addition to appropriating money for the cost-sharing payments, the proposals also spends $100 million for Obamacare outreach.
The way such deals are supposed to work is that Republicans will get some significant portions of Obamacare repealed in exchange for the funding. Alas, Alexander apparently didn’t understand that going into the negotiations. According to CNN:
The deal would make it easier for states to obtain waivers to customize Obamacare rules to their needs. States have complained that applying for waivers is a long and complicated process. Alaska and Minnesota, for instance, have received permission to use federal funds for reinsurance programs that reduce premiums. This agreement would speed administration approval of the waivers and allow states to copy provisions in waivers that were already approved.
However, it does not actually loosen any of Obamacare’s regulations, which had been a key goal of the Republican effort to repeal the health reform law.
The agreement would also allow all Obamacare enrollees to sign up for so-called catastrophic plans, which have lower premiums but have higher deductibles. Right now, these so-called copper policies are only open to those under 30.
What’s worse is that getting a waiver doesn’t mean that costs for taxpayers decrease. Quite the opposite. For example, Alaska’s reinsurance program helps insurers cover the costs of their sickest and, thus, most expensive policyholders. This will likely help slow the rate at which insurance premiums increase. But, as I noted a few months ago:
If you think that means taxpayers will pay less since premiums that rise more slowly result in the federal government paying out less in premium subsidies, you would be wrong. Rather, the money that would have gone toward premium subsidies will now be diverted to Alaska’s stability fund.
Worse still, Alaska taxpayers will have to come up with another $11 million in 2018 on top of the federal money for the fund. A rough, back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that taxpayers would fork over at least $10.1 billion more annually if all states participated in the stabilization fund.
So, we get a deal that lets Democrats spend more money and Republicans get a sped-up waiver process that will require taxpayers to pony up even more money.
Hopefully, Trump’s opposition will kill this thing before it gets any traction.