Will Republicans increase red tape in the healthcare industry?
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William F. Buckley famously quipped, “A conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling 'Stop!'”

On Tuesday, it will be imperative for members of the House Judiciary Committee to heed to his advice at its markup for the “Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act.”

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Conservatives are understandably frustrated at the slow pace House and Senate Republicans seem to be taking at repealing ObamaCare. Instead of thwarting socialist healthcare policies, they appear ready to adopt a wholly unnecessary measure being promoted by leading progressive Democrats.

 

As Buckley would say, “STOP!"

The Competitive Health Insurance Act of 2017, which is set to receive a roll call vote from the House Judiciary Committee, is being billed as a mechanism to allow for the sale of health insurance over state lines. Although this is a long sought-after conservative goal, the bill is still a Trojan Horse of federal government regulation.

The Competitive Health Insurance Act would eliminate a long-standing exemption from federal antitrust laws for health insurance companies, which will lead to more bureaucracy and higher premiums for American families.

It should come as no surprise that this bill is being supported by the far-left of the Democratic Party. In fact, as Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi rammed through the first iteration of the bill. Pelosi stated that the overwhelming vote to repeal the exemption was “a very strong message that, yes, the insurance companies need to be reined in.” Since then, the measure has been endorsed by nearly every big government liberal in Washington, from Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidAmendments fuel resentments within Senate GOP Donald Trump is delivering on his promises and voters are noticing Danny Tarkanian wins Nevada GOP congressional primary MORE to President Obama.

Now that the GOP is in charge, why are they reviving this measure?

David Walker, writing in the Volokh Conspiracy, noted that the 2010 version of the bill was bad news. “H.L. Mencken,” Walker wrote, “once observed that for every human problem, there is a solution that is “neat, plausible, and wrong.” Exhibit A is the “Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act” – also known as H.R. 4626.” He described the folly in detail:

What should we expect if the exemption is repealed? With states already regulating insurer conduct and mergers, and the feds able to challenge mergers, adding federal antitrust exposure for “the business of insurance” does not seem likely to result in much change – and what change there will be may not be for the better. Thus, the Congressional Research Service recently noted the possibility that removal of the exemption could actually reduce competition, if enough small and mid-size insurers decide they can’t enter (or remain in) the market without the ability to share information, so they either exit or consolidate...

What about the promises of lower prices and increased competition? The Congressional Budget Office concluded that repeal “would have no significant effects on either the federal budget or the premiums that private insurers charged for health insurance.” Professor Scott Harrington of the University of Pennsylvania says, “This is just barking up the wrong tree…It might sound good, but I can think of very few things … that would be less consequential for consumers of health insurance.” Professor Austin Frakt of Boston University notes, “Repeal of the exemption is popular, but like a lot of things done in anger, it isn’t particularly wise and won’t be very effective.” Dr. Paul Ginsburg, of the Center for Studying Health System Change asserts that “I don’t think this will have much effect. This is strictly political posturing.”

Not much has changed since 2010 – except that Republicans now control the legislative branch of government. Now there is no need to bludgeon health insurers, and there is certainly no need to piecemeal Obamacare repeal. 

Grassroots conservatives await a total repeal of the measure, as was promised. This is entirely understandable. The Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act and its 2010 counterpart is the healthcare approach that voters rejected when they gave the GOP control of Congress and the White House. The time is now for our representatives to roll up their sleeves and repeal ObamaCare, not impose more federal control over our healthcare system. 

Jerry Rogers is the vice president of the Institute for Liberty, a conservative non-profit based in Washington, D.C.


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