The GOP plan would:
- Expand health savings accounts
- Offer refundable tax credits to subsidize the purchase of private health insurance and decrease dependence on employer-sponsored plans
- Cap the tax exclusion for employer-provided health insurance
- Allow people to purchase insurance across state lines
- Provide $25 billion in funding for high-risk pools over 10 years
- Devolve Medicaid to the states, either through a block grant or a “per capita allotment”
- Partially privatize Medicare beginning in 2024 through a “premium support” option
Republicans are releasing the plan on Wednesday in a 37-page report written by a task force appointed earlier this year by Speaker Paul Ryan—the fifth in a six-part rollout of the party’s “A Better Way” agenda. And while the report may be the party’s most detailed official policy pronouncement on health care in many years, it is not a piece of legislation, and it will not come to a vote this year.
Indeed, the plan is more like an Impressionist painting: The closer you look, the fuzzier it appears. There’s no estimate for how much it would cost, how generous the tax credits would be, how many people it would cover, or how many people would be forced off of Medicaid or their Obamacare exchange policies. “It is a framework,” a House GOP leadership aide told reporters on a background conference call held to preview the plan on Tuesday. All of those questions, the aide said, would be “litigated” by the committees that actually translate the framework into legislation next year. “We would expect healthy job growth. We would expect premiums to drop,” the aide said, without being more specific.
One thing is clear, however: Republicans are recommitting themselves to the full repeal of Obamacare just a few weeks after a pair of GOP lawmakers, Representative Pete Sessions of Texas and Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, released a proposal that scraps its mandates but maintains its underlying structure so that people who like their current plans can keep them. “Obamacare simply does not work,” the GOP report declares. “It cannot be amended or fixed through incremental changes.” The new proposal does envision “a transition period” to minimize disruption to the marketplace and allow people time to find new plans if states choose to do away with the exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act. But beyond a one-time open enrollment period, the specifics of how this would work are, again, hazy.
The plan would reinstitute some of the popular consumer protections in Obamacare, like a ban on insurance companies discriminating based on preexisting conditions, a cap on lifetime coverage, and allowing adult children to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26. But in a few cases, exceptions could apply. Republicans also wade into a less popular aspect of Obamacare by proposing to cap the kind of health insurance plans that can be excluded from income taxes. The concept is the same as the one that led Democrats to enact the so-called “Cadillac tax” on expensive policies in the Affordable Care Act—a levy that they agreed to repeal at end of last year. But while a cap on exclusions targets the same high-cost insurance plans, Republicans argue that it’s a “fundamental departure” from the Cadillac tax that would better account for low-income workers and areas that have a higher cost of living.