Senators should put Trumpcare out of its misery

Saturday , July 15, 2017 - 4:30 AM

BLOOMBERG VIEW

Congressional Republicans have just produced their latest version of Trumpcare. On the plus side, this one gives up on earlier proposals to repeal three taxes that the Affordable Care Act imposes on the wealthy, making it a bit less fiscally reckless. On the minus side, it's still a terrible plan.

It's designed to drastically weaken America's health security — and it's therefore a woeful alternative to Obamacare. Exactly how much worse won't be known until next week, when the Congressional Budget Office issues its evaluation. What's clear right now is that moderate Republicans in the Senate should reject it.

The new bill incorporatesTexas Sen. Ted Cruz's idea to let insurers sell cheap policies that fail to cover preventive care and other basic health needs as long as they also sell ACA-approved plans on the exchanges. This probably would, as intended, lower premiums for healthy people who buy the cheap policies. But where would these people turn when they get sick and discover their insurance covers little to none of their expenses?

Meanwhile, as the ACA-approved plans attract the less healthy, their premiums would rise to unaffordable levels. Trumpcare 4.0 offers an extra $70 billion to help insurers shoulder these people's costs, for a total of $182 billion over 10 years. But that amount of money is unlikely to be nearly enough to help the system work.

As if all this weren't bad enough, the new Trumpcare bill maintains the old one's plan to gut Medicaid by 35 percent over two decades. The $45 billion that's been thrown in to cover opioid-addiction treatment over the next 10 years would not undo the damage.

This legislation, like the earlier versions of Trumpcare, is designed not to improve the U.S. health-care system but to solve a political problem for Republicans in Washington. This betrays a shameful sense of priorities. The responsible thing is to make sure the measure doesn't pass.

(c) 2017, Bloomberg View

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