New Castle News

Editorials

January 28, 2014

Our Opinion: Republican senators propose health care changes

NEW CASTLE — It’s no secret that the Republican Party has been openly critical of President Obama’s health reform efforts.

No Republicans in Congress voted for the Affordable Care Act when it became law, and the GOP was successful in taking control of the House in 2010, largely on its attacks of Democratic health care changes.

And since then, the Republican-controlled House has repeatedly voted to rescind what has been dubbed Obamacare. These were largely symbolic efforts designed to appeal to the party’s base, rather than an effort to change the law. That’s because the Democratic-held Senate would never agree to the repeal and Obama surely would have vetoed any such action.

Republican attacks on Obamacare have been dismissed in many circles as empty politics, because the GOP hasn’t offered anything in the way of an alternative to the old system, where increasing numbers of Americans were losing health insurance. Instead, GOP leaders would declare that once Obamacare was repealed, then the effort to craft a replacement could begin.

That sounds suspiciously like a recipe for doing nothing.

Well, it has apparently dawned on at least some Republican officials that they need to develop a replacement for Obamacare if they hope to maintain credibility on the issue. And now three Republican senators have outlined a plan that would rely heavily on tax credits to expand health care coverage.

The senators, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, acknowledge their proposal is going nowhere in the near future. They envision a move to push it through after the 2016 presidential election. In the meantime, they are preparing specifics and hoping to build support for their effort.

Basically, the trio wants to offer tax credits while doing away with the mandates imposed on individuals and businesses for obtaining coverage that came with Obamacare. They also would scale back Medicaid expansion and eliminate much of the bureaucracy that was added under the Democratic plan.

They hope to cover costs by placing caps on the amount of health insurance that can be deducted on income taxes. It’s not clear at this point if the Republican plan would keep popular benefits found in Obamacare, such as the elimination of restrictions on pre-existing conditions and the extension of time children can be placed on the health plans of their parents.

The multiple shortcomings of Obamacare have given Republicans a golden opportunity to craft an alternative the American people can embrace. But it’s too soon to say if the GOP can take that opportunity and run with it. The next couple of years will tell.

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