Falling short of low expectations

FALLING SHORT OF LOW EXPECTATIONS…. The goading and taunts appear to have been effective: House Republicans will have a health care reform bill. It’s been sent to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring, and will, if all goes according to plan, be ready to go 72 hours before a possible floor vote on the Democratic proposal.

So, what’s in it? We won’t know for sure until it’s formally unveiled, but House GOP leaders started offering some details yesterday. At this point, their proposal may be even worse than expected.

Republicans are preparing to unveil their own health bill in the next few days. Minority Leader John Boehner (R., Ohio) said Monday that the plan wouldn’t seek to prevent health-insurance companies from denying sick people insurance — a key plank of the Democrats’ legislation.

It seemed for a while that there was one thing everyone could agree on — private insurers shouldn’t be able to discriminate against consumers based on pre-existing conditions. But barring any changes to the Republican plan, GOP lawmakers aren’t even prepared to inconvenience private insurance companies with popular, common sense provision.

A Wall Street Journal report added yesterday, “Republicans also wouldn’t prevent insurers from ending policies once an individual becomes seriously ill.”

There would also be no individual mandate, no employer mandate, no exchange, and no tax credits or subsidies to help purchase coverage.

Indeed, the basis for the GOP’s approach to reform rejects the notion of bringing coverage to those who don’t have it. For Republicans, the point of the endeavor is to lower costs, not help the uninsured. “[Democrats’] focus is to get as close presumably to universal coverage as possible,” GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) said. “Republicans, listening to the American people back home, believe the real issue here is cost.”

I see. So, if you’re among the tens of millions of Americans with no coverage, the Republican plan isn’t for you. If you have a pre-existing condition, the Republican plan isn’t for you. If you’re worried about your private insurer dropping you when you need coverage most, the Republican plan isn’t for you. But if you’re an executive at an insurance company, you’re going to just love the GOP alternative plan.

If the descriptions of the GOP proposal are accurate, the House Republican reform plan may be quite a gift to Democrats.