On ObamaCare, Republicans in Congress should follow Trump

On ObamaCare, Republicans in Congress should follow Trump
© Greg Nash

The Trump administration clearly has not given up on the fight to repeal ObamaCare. The Department of Health and Human Services announced a new proposed rule this week to expand the availability of short-term, limited-duration health insurance plans, showing the Trump administration is still serious about gutting ObamaCare. The question is why are congressional Republicans not following President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump on Kanye West's presidential run: 'He is always going to be for us' Marie Yovanovitch on Vindman retirement: He 'deserved better than this. Our country deserved better than this' Trump says Biden has been 'brainwashed': 'He's been taken over by the radical left' MORE’s lead?

On its way out the door in October 2016, the Obama administration tried to drive more unwilling consumers into the ObamaCare exchanges by enacting a new rule shortening the length of time a short-term, limited-duration policy could be in effect, from 12 months down to three months. Trump’s new proposed rule would reverse the Obama-era rule and allow such plans to be sold for a duration of up to 12 months.

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Why are these plans so attractive? Because these plans allow consumers to get the coverage they want, rather than the coverage ObamaCare dictates through its onerous regulations. Not surprisingly, these plans are much less expensive than ObamaCare-mandated plans. Just how much less expensive are they?

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, at the end of 2016, a short-term, limited-duration policy cost approximately $124 per month, compared to $393 for an unsubsidized ObamaCare-compliant policy. In other words, a short-term, limited-duration plan sells for less than one-third the cost of an ObamaCare-compliant plan.

That price differential would make such plans a much more attractive option, so much so that the agency projects that as many as 200,000 people could shift from an ObamaCare exchange plan to a new short-term, limited-duration plan. But based on conversations I’ve had with people all over the country, that seems like a low estimate. When this proposed new rule goes into effect, I could easily see millions of people taking advantage of the opportunity to get out of their expensive ObamaCare coverage and opt instead for coverage with a much less expensive plan.

Given the repeal of ObamaCare’s individual mandate, accomplished through the tax reform victory in December, enactment of this new rule could result in a significant expansion of options for consumers struggling to pay ever-increasing premiums. Kudos to the Trump administration for proposing it. On Capitol Hill, though, it’s a different story. Rather than follow Trump’s lead in finding new ways to reduce the burdens of ObamaCare and expand consumer choice, too many congressional Republicans seem intent on spending billions of new taxpayer dollars to prop up a failing system.

At issue are two different health insurance company bailouts, or “cost sharing reduction” payments, and reinsurance, both of which are advertised as “stabilizing ObamaCare markets” and “lowering premiums.” Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderRepublicans considering an outdoor stadium for Florida convention: report Sixth GOP senator unlikely to attend Republican convention Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Randi Weingarten MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayGOP Health Committee chair says he disagrees with Trump's WHO decision Lobbying battle brewing over access to COVID-19 vaccine Trump officials seek to reassure public about safety of a potential coronavirus vaccine MORE (D-Wash.) have cosponsored the bill regarding cost sharing reduction payments, while Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRepublicans considering an outdoor stadium for Florida convention: report Sixth GOP senator unlikely to attend Republican convention Lincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad MORE (R-Maine) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNASA names DC headquarters after agency's first Black female engineer Mary W. Jackson NASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon Lobbying world MORE (D-Fla.) have cosponsored the legislation regarding reinsurance.

The Alexander-Murray legislation would fund the cost sharing reduction payments for two years, in exchange for allowing states more flexibility to waive some of ObamaCare’s insurance regulations. So despite the long-advertised promise of Republicans to repeal ObamaCare, these cosponsored bills could provide health insurance companies, many of which have reaped extraordinary profits over the last eight years as a result of ObamaCare, with billions more in taxpayer dollars.

This makes no sense at all. Importantly, Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeBipartisan lawmakers introduce bill to limit further expansion of 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Democrats sidestep budget deal by seeking 0B in emergency spending Cheney clashes with Trump MORE (R-Okla.), chairman of the critical House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, which has jurisdiction over this area, knows it. He recently warned congressional leaders about the prospect of trying to add the insurance bailout to a must-pass omnibus spending bill. “You are trying to jam the other chamber and Democrats just tried to do that and it didn’t work,” he said, following the three-day Schumer Shutdown. “I think you would have a big eruption on our side.”

Republican Study Committee chairman Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerPence confidant helps 24-year-old beat Trump-backed candidate Rubio to introduce bill allowing NCAA athletes to make money from name, likeness Democrats press OSHA official on issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard MORE (R-N.C.) suggested recently that there’s little support for the insurance bailout in his 170-member caucus. The cost-sharing reductions are “still something that most of the guys I am talking with are saying ‘I can’t get there,’” he said. House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Miami pauses reopenings as COVID-19 infections rise, schools nationally plot return Overnight Health Care: Trump downplaying of COVID-19 sparks new criticism of response Trump downplaying sparks new criticism of COVID-19 response MORE (R-N.C.) agrees. “I don’t know that there is a whole lot of support for it here,” he said recently. For that matter, there isn’t a whole lot of support anywhere in the country for bailing out ObamaCare.

The president has shown a pathway forward for gutting ObamaCare, root and branch, as congressional Republicans used to be fond of saying. Trump’s plan rests on the free-market principles our side should always champion. These include putting consumers in control, scaling back regulations, and ending the taxpayer-funded corporate welfare for the insurance industry.

In the case of ObamaCare, good policies also make for good politics. If Republicans follow Trump’s lead here with these sound policies, the political payoff in November could be overwhelming. So the question, again, is why aren’t Republicans following Trump’s lead?

Jenny Beth Martin is chairman of Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.