Why Do Republicans Continue to Try to Repeal Reform? (A Method to Their Madness)

(A longer version of this post originally appeared on Healthinsurance.org  There, you will also find a link to an HIO post showing how each Representative voted—and who didn’t vote.)

Last week the House voted—for the 37th time—to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Everyone knows that repeal will never pass the Senate.  Some suggest that legislators might better spend their time (and our tax dollars) figuring out how to create jobs.

Even the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) couldn’t take this 37th vote seriously. When preparing for this latest showdown, Republican Paul Ryan requested an update to CBO’s July 2012 estimate that repealing the ACA would cost more than it would save, increasing the deficit by some $109 billion over the coming decade (2013-2022.)

CBO replied to his request: “Preparing a new estimate of the budgetary impact of repealing the Affordable Care Act would take considerable time – probably several weeks – for CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, because there are hundreds of provisions in the ACA and those provisions are already in various stages of implementation. . .   We have just finished the time-consuming task of updating our baseline budget projections and need to finish our analysis of the President’s budgetary proposals.”

I like economist Jared Bernstein’s paraphrase of CBO’s response: “You guys go ahead and keep gettin’ your crazy on … over here we’re kinda busy doin’ actual work, so can’t help you right now.”

CBO added that when it does have time to do an update, it expects similar results. Repealing health care reform would add to the deficit.

                              Are Republicans Crazy . . .  Or Cunning?

You might think that by continuing to obsess over a bill that will never succeed, Republicans are once again exhibiting their self-destructive tendencies. But I would argue that House Republican leaders are not crazy, at least not in a way that is easy to understand. They’re cunning.

Ask yourself this: How many people skimmed or half-heard the news stories telling them that the House had passed a bill to repeal Obamacare?

This helps to explain why 12 percent of all Americans believe that the ACA already has been scrubbed. Every time a commentator mentions “health care reform” and “repeal” in the same sentence, the words will sink into that morass of half-truths and fictions that we call “the conventional wisdom.”

Even if people realize that the ACA  is now the law of the land, many take the repeated efforts to kill reform as a sign that there is something very wrong with the legislation.

After all, they think: “why would Republicans spend so much time trying to overturn a law if there wasn’t something terribly wrong with it?”

Of course House Republicans also voted against re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act.  (Until it became crystal clear that they were once again tossing the women’s vote under the bus.)  Then there was the time when they voted unanimously to support an anti-abortion bill that redefines rape as “coercive” (as opposed to voluntary rape?)  GOP solidarity is not necessarily a sign of clear thinking.

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Paul Ryan’s Plan for Medicare: A Disaster for Seniors (Why Doctors Might Stop Taking Medicare)

“Robin Hood in reverse, on steroids”–that’s how Robert Greenstein, President of the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities (CBPP),  has described vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s blueprint for the 2013 budget: It could likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history.”

I quoted Greenstein in April, in a post that originally appeared on HealthInsurance.org. There, I explained that Ryan’s budget would shift Medicare costs to seniors  and slash Medicaid, while simultaneously offering tax breaks for Americans perched on the top of a our income ladder.

Under the newest version of the Ryan plan, Washington would give seniors a voucher equal to the cost of the second-cheapest private-sector Medicare plan in their region. In theory, this gives seniors “choice” — the opportunity to pick a Medicare policy that best suits their needs, and their pocketbook.

If they don’t want to buy a plan from a for-profit insurer, they could, if they wish, use the voucher to buy traditional government-sponsored Medicare–though if it costs more than that second-cheapest private plan in their area, they will have to make up the difference.

Romney and Ryan are convinced that the private sector is always more efficient than government. Thus, for-profit insurers will be bound to offer better care at a lower price. Their faith is remarkable, given that past attempts to privatize Medicare (Medicare + Choice and Medicare Advantage) have largely failed on both counts.

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“Premium Support” Is Just Another Way To Privatize Medicare

Note: This post comes from my new blog reforminghealth.org I have left The Century Foundation and can be reached at nfreund2@gmail.com

Out of the rubble of the failed budget deficit negotiations, it seems a new movement is afoot to transform Medicare into a “premium support” program with the goal of moving more seniors and the disabled into the private insurance market.

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