Stanford Progressive

The Republican Healthcare Plan

By Nikola Milanovic, published January, 2010

In the wake of the Obama Administra tion’s efforts at compiling a cogent health care plan, the Republican Party has been fighting nearly every element proposed by the President and Democrats in Congress.

The outlook adopted by the Obama Ad ministration is that the healthcare system in the US necessitates three major reforms: better coverage and quality of care at lower cost, scientific and technological advance ments, and an emphasis on preventative care. House and Senate Republicans re sponded to the President’s idea of reform with their own healthcare proposals.

On June 17th, House Minority Leader John Boehner introduced the GOP alterna tive to Obama’s healthcare solution. Instead of overhauling the system in the manner advised by five congressional committees working on different strategies, Republi cans have thrown out a simpler plan. The four-page proposal outlines three main goals: making healthcare more affordable, making it more available and accessible, and promoting healthy lifestyles and higher quality care.

To achieve the first goal, the GOP plan suggests eliminating “unnecessary” costs. To do so, it advocates a number of tax sav ings and tax credits for low-income Ameri cans and those without job-provided health care. However, the plan also aims to provide Medicare and Medicaid, as well as financial help for in-home caregivers and retirees. This level of support seems incongruous with the suggestion of lower taxes, con sidering that tax savings would reduce the available budget for quality programs. The plan also advocates a do-it-yourself system that stresses the importance of saving up to cover personal health costs and the neces sity for local businesses and associations to “band together” in order to provide health insurance at lower costs. How these busi nesses are supposed to reduce costs, or how low-income Americans can be effectively incentivized to save, is anyone’s guess, but apparently isn’t the GOP’s problem.

The next goal, which stresses increased availability and accessibility, is similarly riddled with solutions that contain glar ing inconsistencies. The plan stresses that Americans should be able to retain health care regardless of job changes or past ill nesses. But who would provide this health care? Cutting tax funding for Medicare would minimize the ability of people to maintain their healthcare plans between jobs, and would most likely disqualify people with pre-existing conditions. Once again, the GOP stresses that this healthcare should be provided not by government, but by businesses.

The plan for allowing firms to provide healthcare takes two approaches: giving a small business tax credit to companies, and encouraging employers to expand cover age by switching to opt-out rather than opt-in rules. Once again, the Republicans advocate tax savings, which draw funding from Medicare, to encourage businesses to support their employees. There’s no tell ing whether this encouragement will be ef fective, whether companies will have the funding to cover the costs of decentralized healthcare, or whether forcing them to pro vide more coverage will cause worker lay offs to cut costs.

The final suggestion for improving avail ability is extending parental policies for their college-age progeny until age 25. This would put an additional strain on programs already struggling to cut costs, forcing them to extend their policy coverage to 7 million more dependents. By adhering to these re forms, the plan claims, Medicaid benefi ciaries would be granted the flexibility to choose policies appropriate to them, rather than the “one-size-fits-all” government pro grams.

It’s true that such homogenous treatment under a government plan isn’t favorable, but “one-size-fits-all” is a better approach than “sorry, no-size-fits-you.”

Finally, the Republican solution seeks to promote healthy lifestyles and quality care. The methods for doing so are varied. One suggestion is to allow insurers and employ ers to reward their beneficiaries for living healthily – a sophisticated way of ‘granting’ companies the ability to reward their health care dependents for following the ‘apple-a-day’ mantra. It also seeks to reward high quality private care and give those search ing for a plan the tools to coordinate care between providers and find a good policy. Unfortunately, the plan Americans find that’s right for them may not be the plan they can afford, but at least it’s the fault of individual providers, and not the GOP. Lastly, the Republican plan stresses its sup port for home-care, rather than “forcing individuals” to consult doctors, once again shifting the burden off the government.

All in all, the Republicans adopt a do-it-yourself philosophy that effectively cuts taxes, and therefore funding, and hands out band-aids to shooting victims coupled with a booklet on healthy living and private healthcare plans. Though fiscal conserva tism is an admirable goal, especially in a struggling economy where Americans need to reap the fruits of their labor, the GOP plan is not a realistic solution to the health care problem.

Instead of reforming the healthcare sys tem to streamline service and cut costs, Re publicans want to minimize coverage and give citizens the ‘freedom’ to purchase their own plans – even if they can’t afford them.

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