by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A brief article in the latest print edition of National Review — headlined “Healthier and Wiser” — offers more praise for the health care reform plan co-sponsored by North Carolina’s senior U.S. senator, Republican Richard Burr.
The new health-care plan from Senators Tom Coburn, Orrin Hatch, and Richard Burr is the best one to emerge from Congress yet, and marks real progress in the campaign to replace Obamacare. The plan aims to make health insurance affordable for roughly as many people as Obamacare was intended to, but without the higher taxes, the regulatory micromanagement, the threat of rationing, the reduction in consumer freedom, the vast new bureaucracies, or the perverse incentives. And while not perfect, it largely succeeds in these objectives.
Like previous Republican plans, this plan lets the uninsured buy coverage on the individual market with the help of a tax credit. It improves on those earlier plans in a few ways: The amount of the credit varies by age, and the credit does not disrupt existing insurance arrangements by simply replacing the current tax break for employer-provided insurance. (Instead that tax break would be capped, building on one of the few sensible elements of Obamacare.)
The plan includes more regulation of health insurance than we would prefer in an ideal world. It retains Obamacare’s mandate that insurers let 26-year-olds get covered on their parents’ policies and its requirement that insurers impose no lifetime limit on beneficiaries’ payouts. It also limits the ratio of oldsters’ to youngsters’ premiums, although the limit is sufficiently high that it may not have much practical impact, especially since states could raise them further. The key thing, though, is that the law allows insurers to continue to sell insurance, properly understood. They would be able to take account of their customers’ risks. They could sell cheaper policies that covered fewer services, rather than being able to cut premiums only by shrinking their networks of doctors (which is the chief form of competition Obamacare allows).
And it would prevent the problem that called forth the hated individual mandate from arising in the first place.