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Tag: Federalism

De Tocqueville Rewrites the Affordable Care Act

Pending Supreme Court review, the provisions of Affordable Care Act (ACA) are gradually working their way through the system. But we are still three years away from the centerpiece of the ACA – the insurance exchanges. The combination of purchase mandates, taxes, subsidies, and underwriting restrictions that govern the exchanges has never been tried and no one knows if the exchanges will work. Even the academic theorists who assembled this patchwork quilt of rules and regulations have their fingers crossed.

Given the lengthy wait between passage and full implementation of the ACA, it was inevitable that the op-ed pages would be filled with alternatives to exchanges. Some critics would scrap them in favor of some bastardized version of the status quo, leaving tens of millions uninsured. But commentators on the right and left have offered bolder ideas for expanding coverage. Some conservatives promote voucher plans. These proposals feature open enrollment periods and a few other mechanisms that will promote broad risk pools without all the other regulatory bells and whistles. Some liberals renew the call for a single payer system. Frankly, I think both of these “ideologically pure” approaches will be more successful than the mongrelized ACA.

This is why I am intrigued by a bill that is flying under the radar screen in Congress. This bill, which has the support of President Obama, would allow states to implement their own rules for expanding health insurance coverage. If the bill provides enough carrots in the form of tax subsidies (that would have otherwise funded the ACA exchanges), then several states might just play along. If that happens, we would have a golden opportunity to discover the strengths and weaknesses of alternative approaches. Unfortunately, I suspect that this legislation will not give states enough time to act or enough money to make it worth their while, and the vast majority of states will leave the problem of financing and implementing health reform to the feds.Continue reading…

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