Scott Walker's unhelpful new health care proposal
Gov. Scott Walker says he's unintimidated. But two other "un" words better describe Walker's recent health reform plan:
Let's begin with untrue.
The false premise of Walker's plan is that the Affordable Care Act represents a "failed approach." The ACA certainly has had its woes, especially the infamous launch of its first website. But despite its troubles, the law has done much to help around 16 million Americans get health coverage.
Walker is untruthful when he describes the ACA as an initiative that "made an already broken system worse." In 2013, the year before the ACA took effect, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 14.4% of U.S. residents were uninsured. In some states, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the uninsured rate topped 20%. Fortunately, since the ACA became law, the uninsured rate has fallen dramatically.
Even Walker sheepishly admits in his plan that "Obamacare expanded the number of people with coverage who previously were not insured." Indeed it did! According to the CDC, the uninsured rate in early 2015 dropped to 9.2%, below 10% for the first time ever.
Brushing aside this achievement, Walker does not mention the negative effect his plan will have on the uninsured by 1) dismantling health insurance places; 2) block-granting Medicaid, which could cause states to cancel coverage and ration benefits; 3) allowing health insurers once again to impose lifetime and annual limits on benefits; and 4) removing the provision that lets children remain on their parents' coverage until age 26.
What about unspecific?
Walker's plan is fuzzy and short on details.
For instance, Walker wants to provide tax credits only to individuals who lack "employer-based coverage." But Walker fails to define what "employer-based coverage" means. Would a person be denied a tax credit if the available "employer-based coverage" requires payment of a $20,000 deductible? Or omits prescription drugs? Or forces the worker to use a single doctor chosen by the firm? Walker's plan is hopelessly vague.
Another example: "No individual should fear being denied coverage," reads Walker's plan, "when they get sick and then try to change jobs or insurance plans." But there's a catch...a "provided." This protection is only available "provided individuals maintain continuous, creditable coverage." Of course, Walker's plan defines neither "maintain" nor "continuous" nor "creditable" nor even "coverage." But whatever those words mean, beneath the fancy rhetoric about protecting ill people from insurance company mistreatment looms a giant loophole that quite clearly allows it.
Walker's biggest pitch for repealing and replacing the ACA is that his plan will be effective in cutting costs. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated, however, that Walker's plan to repeal the ACA would add $353 billion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years. So how exactly would the rest of Walker's plan offset this increase in the deficit and save money? He offers no explanation whatsoever.
Walker also says his plan "could lower" premiums by "up to 25%." According to whose objective analysis? Walker's plan has a bunch of numbers and footnotes, but his craftily worded claim that his plan "could" save "up to" 25% is not backed up by a shred of evidence.
The fact is that the so-called "bold reforms" Walker points to having implemented in Wisconsin have cost our state's taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars more than full implementation of the ACA would have produced.
Voters want Democrats, Republicans and independents to work together to improve the ACA. That is why I introduced a bill, modeled on Iowa's Republican Gov. Terry Branstad's approach, to expand Medicaid (BadgerCare in Wisconsin) in conjunction with the marketplace exchanges. Wisconsin's nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated that such a bill would help Wisconsin provide health insurance coverage to 81,000 more Wisconsinites and save our state $241 million over two years. So far, Wisconsin Republicans have rejected this Republican approach to strengthening health care in Wisconsin.
So let's stop playing political games with Americans' health. The only common sense response to Walker's untrue and unspecific health plan is to unregard it.