Walker unveils plan to replace ObamaCare

Walker unveils plan to replace ObamaCare
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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday unveiled a long-awaited plan to replace ObamaCare, becoming the first top-tier GOP presidential candidate to make his healthcare agenda public.

In a 10-page report released Tuesday morning, the Republican governor pledges to repeal the law and replace it with a more affordable and more efficient system, which he declared would not add to the deficit. He does not say how he would afford his “bold reforms.”

“A lot of candidates talk about repealing ObamaCare,” Walker said during a campaign event in Minnesota. “We’re one of the few to put out a plan, not just how to repeal it, but what to do in its place.”

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The biggest change would be dismantling the existing tax credits under ObamaCare and replacing them with a system that doles out federal dollars based on an individual’s age, instead of income.

For example, a person between the ages of 18 and 34 would receive $1,200, while a person between the ages of 50 to 64 would receive $3,000. The tax credits would only go to individuals without employer-sponsored coverage.

Unlike ObamaCare, his plan would also allow groups, such as small businesses or farmers, to band together to negotiate lower rates, and allow all individuals to purchase coverage across state lines. Both are popular Republican-backed healthcare ideas.

Walker acknowledges that many of his ideas are recycled from previous conservative proposals, specifically highlighting conversations with Congressional Republicans including House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee.

In line with previous GOP proposals, Walker would rely on states to decide which healthcare reforms to implement. His plan would allow states to determine which plan benefits to require. It would also give states federal grants to expand high-risk pools to ensure people with existing conditions don't lose coverage — helping to keep in place one of the most popular pieces of ObamaCare.

While the Congressional Budget Office has warned that repealing ObamaCare would increase the deficit by $137 billion over ten years, Walker declared that his plan would be “cost-neutral.”

Still, he is offering only vague details about how he would pay for the reforms. He points to savings from capping federal Medicaid payments to states and from taxing high-cost health plans in what could be similar to ObamaCare’s “Cadillac tax” on those plans.

“Our plan is cost-neutral. We pay for this by reforming the process by which the tax code treats some of the gold-plated plans out there and by reforming the tax code,” Walker told the crowd to applause.

States would also be on the hook for certain Medicaid reforms, a program which he said would absorb many of the country’s new healthcare customers under ObamaCare. Walker promised to move away from the current “open-ended matching program,” instead creating a specific state contribution.

His plan lacks specifics about how it would reduce costs overall, though,he pledges to lower premiums up to 25 percent “by eliminating ObamaCare’s regulations and by encouraging real competition.”

He also promises to reward individuals with $1,000 if they sign up for the tax-deductible health savings accounts, which are typically used by individuals and families with high-deductible plans.

Walker is the first Republican candidate – other than Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has a deep background in healthcare – to release a comprehensive plan on ObamaCare.

Earlier Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) published an op-ed about his own healthcare plan, though it added no new details from his last op-ed on the subject, published in March.  

This story was updated at 4:34 p.m.