There seems to be a temporary lull, as far as I have been hearing, regarding the progress of the American Health Care Act. This is mainly because a whole host of scandals are swirling around Washington, D.C. regarding a Russian connection to the Trump campaign, the firing of FBI Director Jim Comey, and one about whether President Donald Trump gave away some classified information to Russian officials during a meeting.
I think Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is right in saying that less drama from the White House would help the Senate to concentrate on matters that affect the everyday lives of American people.
One of those issues would be health care in the United States and how to repair this very broken system that has become far too dependent on insurance coverage and government intervention. Although the talk in the media for the last week and a half has discussed the scandal du jour ad nauseam, it looks like there is a little bit of work regarding the nation’s health care policies going on in the background. Once again, it seems like some kind of “deadline” looms that is making Senate Republicans think that they may have to do something before June 21.
According to an article in the online publication Axios (1), this is the date by which insurers have to make a final decision regarding whether or not they will sell insurance for 2018 on the federal Obamacare exchanges. I am not sure if the states with their own exchanges have alternate deadlines.
So, if the Senate can ignore the White House drama and plug away at the American Health Care Act that is now before it, they have a tough choice to make because they are faced with either passing a short-term stabilization bill of some kind to make sure that there actually insurers on most of the exchanges or try to work on the larger package of health care reform in a way that it could be passed and signed into law in time for that deadline. With all the deep division between the two major parties, as well as between different positions within the Republican party, I am not placing any bets on passing a larger package of sensible free market reforms that could be signed into law by the president in time for the June 21 decision crunch.
So what’s the Senate to do?
According to the Axios article, the Senate has the following options to consider:
- Go ahead and fund the subsidies so the few remaining exchange insurers would know what they are dealing with in 2018 and would remain on the exchanges, at least for the coming year. (Hopefully such an action would only be considered temporary to provide a “bridge,” so to speak, as the Senate gives more in-depth consideration concerning the best way to repeal and replace Obamacare.)
- Pass a bill by Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker that would allow people to use premium subsidies to buy health care insurance not offered on the exchanges, which looks like it would only be available in areas where there are no insurance companies on the exchanges. (Once again, I hope this would only be a band-aid solution while the Senate mulls over the best way forward for a free market in health care.)
- They could always just take their time to put out a bill, regardless of insurance decision deadlines, that allows a free market in health care that can really make health care and insurance affordable for the average person. (There is a great risk of widespread chaos in this scenario, but then maybe it is time for many people to have the government pacifier yanked out of their mouths; they may cry a lot for a while, but then those who know better could direct the ones being broken of their dependency into health care options that are so much better than what we have now.)
- There may also be another option because Axios also reported that Senator Claire McCaskill has indicated she is planning to introduce a bill as well, but has not revealed anything about it.
Maybe I was at least partially wrong in one of my earlier blogs, when I said Congress needs to take their time to get health care reform right. On the other hand, the Senate cannot slap something together that can get passed and claim they have done the job for the American people. When that happens, I fear that people will just get used to the “new normal” and expect to always be able to buy insurance whenever and wherever they want with a subsidy from the government, which could be just as destructive as Obamacare.
The Senate prospects also look difficult because Republicans only have a narrow majority, so there will be very intense division in trying to repeal a law that Democrats doggedly defend.
For my part, I am going to try my best to communicate with my Utah senators, as well as other key senators, to impress upon them the necessity of getting health care reform right, and familiarizing them with some free market innovations they may not know about that can drive down health care costs without the involvement of insurance.
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