Burr’s health care alternative is an ACA repeal

February 1, 2014 

From the beginning of the debate over the Affordable Care Act until it became law and even after it passed constitutional muster with the U.S. Supreme Court, Republicans in Congress jeered at “Obamacare”. They threw up every roadblock they could think of and made dire predictions that didn’t come true, and when the website healthcare.gov locked up at the start, they made the odd complaint that people weren’t getting what they didn’t want people to have.

But for all the Republicans’ long and anguished objections to the ACA, there was one thing they didn’t mention: an alternative. One reason for the lack of an option might have been that conservative ideas on health care developed by the Heritage Foundation were already built into the ACA.

Now North Carolina’s Sen. Richard Burr has what’s being touted as the Republican alternative to the ACA.

Turns out, it’s just another attempt at a roadblock.

Many specifics aren’t out, but what is known is interesting. While Burr would continue current reforms allowing people to keep their children on their insurance until age 26 and would ban lifetime limits on insurance, he’d have no requirement that Americans buy insurance, a key provision of the ACA. It ensures risks to insurers will be widely spread and premiums kept as low as possible. . And insurance companies, limited under the ACA to charging older people three times what they charge younger ones, could charge those older Americans five times the rate for younger people.

Somehow, Republicans think that will lower health care costs.

No Medicaid expansion

And those with pre-existing conditions would have no guarantee of coverage. They’d be hostage to high-risk pools if they couldn’t get insurance. The GOP plan also wouldn’t expand Medicaid to cover more lower-income people and would toss to the states the responsibility for helping the poor meet their medical costs.

The White House rightly called the Burr plan “just another repeal proposal,” and it’s probably no coincidence that it came the day of the State of the Union address. That meant Burr and others could tout it as a great alternative to “Obamacare” without the plan being subjected to closer scrutiny.

That is not a strategy to improve health care. It’s a political maneuver to try to take the edge off the State of the Union.

Old problems unsolved

Republicans are selling the same old free-market health insurance system the country has had, a system that has left millions uninsured, has seen costs skyrocket and has not resulted in better health care for many Americans. Are they prisoners of the insurance companies or just so wedded to their free-market, small-government philosophies of the past that this is all they know?

Their “reform” would not deny insurance companies the power to reject people who have illnesses or pre-existing conditions for coverage. That simply leaves millions of people out in the cold. How is that reform? How does that help a significant number of Americans?

The Burr plan would put the poor who rely on Medicaid more at risk. It would quite probably cost those in the middle class more to buy insurance, assuming they could get it.

It helps insurance companies. It makes no difference to the wealthy. And its provisions to give people tax credits to buy insurance are inadequate to address the real expenses of insurance. It’s like saying, “Sure, we know a tax credit won’t help that much, but we’re going to pretend it will.”

When Republicans in Congress talked about letting the government go into default if President Obama would not agree to abandon the ACA, in effect a threat of political blackmail, Burr called it “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.” He sounded positively statesmanlike. Unfortunately, the senator is apparently back in the GOP’s most extreme camp.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service