The Graham-Cassidy bill — it's not perfect, but it's better than ObamaCare

The Graham-Cassidy bill — it's not perfect, but it's better than ObamaCare
© Greg Nash

Most rational human beings, when faced with a bowl of lint sprinkled with lemon juice versus a bowl of lukewarm gruel, would reject both. Yet, the fact remains that the lukewarm gruel is the better choice. And that is what is being served up by Republicans with the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson repeal of ObamaCare.

Let’s face it: to describe ObamaCare as a bowl of lemon infused lint is an insult to bowls of lint everywhere. ObamaCare is a disaster: the latest official estimates show that 1,478 counties, or over 45 percent of counties in the U.S., will have just one insurance company in 2018. Add to that fact that premiums are set to rise yet another 15 percent in 2018. Before that premium rise, family plans have already risen 140 percent since the end of 2013.

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Now, faced with less than two weeks to repeal ObamaCare under budget reconciliation rules, Republicans have slid a tepid bowl of gruel across the table to the American people. To be fair, the GOP repeal is not completely awful; there is the ability, if one closes his eyes and plugs his nose, to choke it down.

For starters the bill does repeal the individual and employer mandate. According to the University of Chicago economist, Casey Mulligan, the employer mandate has destroyed 250,000 jobs, and in addition has also incentivized employers to slash employee’s hours to keep them under ObamaCare’s 30 hours per week threshold. So polite golf claps all around for doing the obvious by repealing those mandates.

The Graham-Cassidy bill does repeal ObamaCare’s restrictions on Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), doubling the contribution limits for HSAs and expands their use by allowing them to cover direct primary care services and health insurance premiums. The bill also repeals the medical device tax and the taxes on over-the-counter medications, which will help cut taxes by $300 billion.

One of the more appealing aspects to the GOP bill is that it creates formula-based federal block grants to states starting in 2020 that will cut down on the ability of states to game the federal government into getting more money than they’re supposed to get. Currently, profligate states such as Massachusetts receive a disproportionate and unfair share of ObamaCare spending.

 

By 2021, the new state block grant would begin distributing money to states based on their share of all Americans between 50 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The ObamaCare repeal will also give states the ability to cull their Medicaid rolls of ineligible recipients and end ObamaCare insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion.

But what the bill doesn’t do is address the rest of the taxes cooked into ObamaCare. I wrote about this recently, reminding people that in 2018, unless the Republican-led Congress does something, there will be ObamaCare taxes enacted and sure enough the GOP bill doesn't address some of those elements.

For example, on Jan.1, 2018 a new ObamaCare tax on Americans health insurance premiums called the Health Insurance Tax (HIT) goes into effect. This must be repealed either in this bill or through another vehicle before the end of the year or the Republican Congress will be held responsible for a new tax that disproportionately harms seniors and small businesses. Yet the establishment GOP leadership apparently doesn't intend to deal with these new taxes according to Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Finance: Trump says shutdown 'could happen' | Ryan, conservatives inch closer to spending deal | Senate approves motion to go to tax conference | Ryan promises 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Senate approves motion to go to tax conference House conservatives, Ryan inch closer toward spending deal MORE and that is completely unacceptable.

Neither do I see any attempts in the ObamaCare repeal to really address the costs of healthcare, which is the real issue with rising premiums and deductibles. Earlier this year I proposed a simple but elegant way to reform the tax code to address rising healthcare costs, because until we acknowledge and confront the fact that insurance companies and healthcare providers want to see costs go up, and we push for real marketplace reform, there will be no healthcare reform that truly puts the American people first.

Democrats have handed us this mess. Every single part of the failure that is ObamaCare is their fault, from the skyrocketing premiums to the loss of care for Americans across the country. While I understand Senator Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLexington mayor launches bid for Congress Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics Meet the Iran hawk who could be Trump's next secretary of State MORE’s decision to stand in the way of any improvement, it is counter productive. Republicans are in the best political position they have ever had. It’s not going to get any rosier, and in fact it can get worse.

Republicans ran on repeal of ObamaCare, offering up a tasty steak for which, in return, people plunked down a lot of money. Instead of steak, however, they’re offering up a bowl of gruel. Grant it, there are a few Bacos Bacon Bits sprinkled on top of the gruel. So dear Republican base, just close your eyes and choke it down. If you imagine it tastes like steak it’ll make it easier.

Ned Ryun is a former presidential writer for George W. Bush and the founder and CEO of American Majority. You can find him on Twitter@nedryun