An embarrassing alternative

AN EMBARRASSING ALTERNATIVE…. Thank goodness House Republicans came up with their own health care reform plan. Without it, some may have been tempted to think GOP lawmakers are credible when it comes to the policy debate.

As was quickly apparent, the Republican plan does nothing for the uninsured, nothing for those with pre-existing conditions, and nothing for those worried about losing coverage when it’s needed most. It’s an entirely partisan plan, written in secret, which ignores Democratic ideas altogether. The GOP proposal seeks to create a system that “works better for people who don’t need health care services, and much worse for people who actually are sick or who become sick in the future. It’s basically a health un-insurance policy.”

Republican lawmakers nevertheless submitted their plan to the Congressional Budget Office for a score. The office released a report (pdf) last night, and it’s safe to assume GOP leaders hope no one reads it.

The Republican bill, which has no chance of passage, would extend insurance coverage to about 3 million people by 2019, and would leave about 52 million people uninsured, the budget office said, meaning the proportion of non-elderly Americans with coverage would remain about the same as now, at roughly 83 percent. […]

According to the report by nonpartisan budget office, the Republican bill would reduce future federal deficits by $68 billion over 10 years, compared to a reduction of $104 billion by the House Democrats’ legislation.

So, let me get this straight. The House Republican caucus has been working behind closed doors since June on a health care plan. Five months later, they unveil their plan, and it effectively leaves the broken status quo intact? That’s the big GOP health proposal? Largely ignoring the uninsured, neglecting those with pre-existing conditions, and offering deficit reductions that are smaller than the Democrats’ plan?

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) said of the GOP plan in a statement, “It will leave 52 million Americans literally out in the cold, does nothing to help low-income and middle-class families afford quality health care, and protects insurance companies’ power to deny claims and stand between patients and their doctors. Their bill fundamentally fails to repair our broken health care system.”

Now, keep in mind, Republican leaders concede that their approach effectively ignores those who currently lack coverage. As far as the GOP is concerned, helping those with no insurance costs too much, so their plan barely tries to address this aspect of the health care crisis. Instead, they argue, the key to reform is cutting costs, so that’s where Republicans focused their energies.

But this is wrong, too. Jonathan Cohn explained this week, “This is a politically clever construction, since it creates a narrative that is both intellectually simple (Democrats focus on coverage, Republicans focus on costs) and consistent with preconceptions about the parties (Democrats want to help the poor, Republicans want to help everybody else). But it’s not actually true. President Obama and his allies have made controlling costs a top priority of health care reform … and the bills moving through Congress show it.”

I expected a bad Republican plan, but this is even worse than I imagined.

In terms of getting the word out, however, the public will probably not hear much about the GOP proposal. Democrats are largely focused on passing their own bill, and the media realizes that the Republican plan has no chance at becoming law.

But that’s a shame — the public should realize that there are two competing approaches to the same problem here, and one of the two is ridiculous. The White House is trying to shine a light on the GOP plan, and here’s hoping that some of the major outlets notice.