Tag: Conservatives

The Individual Mandate, a Brief History — Part I Conservative Origins

In recent years, politicians of every stripe have eaten their words about the wisdom of requiring all Americans to possess health coverage. This hasn’t been real news since the 2007 Democratic primary debates, when candidate Obama claimed his reasons for opposing the mandate were similar to those expressed by Hillary some 15 years ago.

A few years later it was President Obama’s turn. And by 2010, the entire Republican party performed a synchronized heel-face turn, virulently opposing the solution they advocated decades earlier. All of this culminated with the recent passage of the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act” in the House, by which point the mandate had become a 21st century Intolerable Act.

The media have dutifully reported each foible as if such strategic backpedaling were something new under the sun. But the 22-year path to ACA § 1501(b) is a story in its own right, a sort of philosophical history of American health reform policy.

Part I – The think-tank solutions (1989 – 1992)

Back in the late 1980s, the individual mandate wasn’t controversial at all–just another idea being kicked around in conservative think tanks. Although economist Mark V. Pauly, an adviser to the first Bush administration, is often cited as the mandate’s creator, conservative thinkers Stuart M. Butler and Edmund F. Haislmaier were dreaming up similar proposals at the Heritage Foundation as early as 1989.Continue reading…

In Which We Wonder Where the Graham-Cassidy Bill Came From and What It All Means

The latest Republican attempt to repeal and replace the ACA looks a lot like what they were trying to do in May, June and July—and failed to do.

But actually, the framing of the current effort—the Graham-Cassidy bill—is much more deeply grounded in the perennial debate over where political power resides in the U.S.:  the federal government or the states.   Graham-Cassidy also more starkly reflects what many conservatives are trying to achieve in health care policy.   And what they are trying to achieve is, to put it euphemistically, not nice.  

On both counts, this renewed debate resonates politically beyond health care.  It’s no coincidence that the two Senators behind this new push, Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, are from southern states—South Carolina and Louisiana, respectively.   Before the Civil War, during the Civil War, and up to the present day, southern conservatives like Graham and Cassidy—more passionately than their northern counterparts—have pushed to devolve power to the states and weaken the federal government.

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Defined Contribution Health Care—The Conservatives’ Silver Bullet

Conservatives are in a full court press these days telling us the answer to America’s out-of-control health care costs—and our fiscal crisis—is to move Medicare, Medicaid, and the tax code subsidy for private insurance to a defined contribution system.

Instead of the federal government defining a benefit and then shouldering the cost of whatever that promise leads to (today’s defined benefit plan), many conservatives are suggesting that we gradually move to a system where the government only promises an annual payment (or tax credit) for health care in the form of a voucher and then the consumer uses it (arguably more efficiently) to buy one of many health plans competing for their business.

First, let me tell you that I think defined contribution health care is generally a good idea. For too long the federal tax system and Medicare policy has subsidized careless health care spending.

Many worry that defined contribution health care would lead to poor people getting second-class health care because they would not be able to afford more than the voucher allows them. That is a legitimate concern and while that outcome can be tempered it cannot likely be eliminated. But that also occurs today, as many seniors have nothing more than a combination of Medicare and Medicaid while the wealthier can afford much better supplemental insurance. And, it will occur in the future under the Affordability Act because the new federal health care subsidies are based on the more limited plans available.

But I will also tell you that it is naïve to think the way to control health care costs is to simply move to a more market-oriented defined health care system.Continue reading…