President Obama, former House Speaker and 2012 presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, and Jonathan Bernstein at the Washington Post may all claim that Republicans have offered no serious alternatives to the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, but inactive Dalton, MN insurance agent and Certified Magi Astrologer Kirby Greene offers hope in Good ideas presented by ‘other’ party on health care, a letter to the editors of the Fergus Falls Daily Journal.
No Republican healthcare reform?
Earlier in August, Politico reported in Newt Gingrich: No GOP health care plan:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Wednesday told party chairs and operatives at the Republican National Committee summer meeting that the GOP has “zero” ideas for replacing Obamacare.
“I will bet you, for most of you, you go home in the next two weeks when your members of Congress are home, and you look them in the eye and you say, ‘What is your positive replacement for Obamacare?’ They will have zero answer,” Gingrich told the Boston crowd, said a report from CNN.
Gingrich said the party has a “very deep problem” with a culture that promotes negativity.
Read the rest at Politico. Four days ago at the Washington Post's Plumline, Jonathan Bernstein wrote in There won’t be any GOP alternative to Obamacare:
We’re hearing more and more rumblings from top Republicans that the GOP’s current position on Obamacare is untenable — that the party can’t continue to call for the destruction of Obamacare forever without offering any alternative. The push from the right for a shutdown has only drawn that into sharper relief, and so we’re finally hearing that Republicans — finally! — will make good on their promise, now 30 months overdue, to come up with the “replace” part of repeal-and-replace.
It ain’t gonna happen. There won’t be any serious GOP alternative to Obamacare.
The first problem with developing an alternative to the Affordable Care Act is that there just may not be any policy alternative that comes close to accomplishing what the law accomplishes. At first, it looked like conservatives would leave themselves a way to propose their own version of the same reforms in Obamacare, and rename it on their own terms. . . .
Since none of that was true, it gave Republicans an opening: they may have stigmatized “Obamacare,” but they hadn’t stigmatized the policy ideas at the core of the law — the combination of exchanges and subsidies that actually started out as a Republican plan, as Ezra Klein explains in detail today. In other words, as late as 2012 it seemed plausible Republicans could choose to invent a ConservaCare proposal based on Ronald Reagan Marketplaces that would basically offer a slightly different spin on the same underlying idea.
But conservatives have decided that no policy overlap with Obamacare is acceptable. Tea Partiers have chosen to oppose not only Obamacare but any policy which even faintly resembles any piece of that omnibus legislation. We saw this in the House defeat of Eric Cantor’s high-risk poll bill this spring, when conservatives revolted against his effort to propose a GOP plan protecting those with preexisting conditions. . . .
A Republican plan from Dalton, Minnesota?
Never fear. Kirby Ronsley Greene is here. There once was a Kirby Green Insurance Agency in Dalton, a city of 253 people in Otter Tail County, Minnesota, but the Greene agency license is inactive, according to online records kept by the state of Minnesota, so Greene won't profit from the suggestions in his letter.
In Good ideas presented by ‘other’ party on health care, Greene writes:
The President is fond of saying that the ‘Other’ party has never even offered an alternative to his health plan. Here are some new ideas:
1– Urge all STATE Legislatures to make illegal anyone or any entity from buying Health Insurance for anyone except themselves or for immediate family members.
2-This will effectively kill all group insurance plans for everybody in America.
3-Federal or States mandate that all insurance companies be required to accept all applications for health insurance non-selectively without medical underwriting.
4-The Federal government CAN offer, for instance, a Credit of $5,000 to each citizen towards the individual person or family by way of Social Security number.
5-Additionally, any business MAY contribute extra salary in equal amounts to each employee towards the employee’s purchase of said individual, non-group Guaranteed Issue, Guaranteed Renewable Health insurance.
6-Since insurance companies are in the business of making health insurance available to people, they will be free to stay in business and compete for these individual polices or leave the health insurance market without discrimination.
7-This will exclude some people residing in the USA when the insurance company’s attorneys sue them for non-payment of their medical expenses; they will have the choice of paying them, or leaving the country.
8- Citizens who choose not to be insured will be required to be responsible for all of their own medical expenses and their family dependents.
9- Phase out the current Medicare system immediately for all citizens under age 50. This will allow 15 years to fix any problems that may crop up.
Well then. Employers couldn't offer group health insurance (although they could give money to employees to buy their own), those purchasing insurance would get a tax credit, insurance companies would have to sell to everyone (#3), Medicare would be phased out--and anyone who couldn't pay their medical bills would be deported (#7).
In June, CNBC reported in Medical Bills Are the Biggest Cause of US Bankruptcies: Study that 1.7 million people would file medical bill-related bankruptcies this year, so we might be waving good-bye to a host of our fellow citizens under the Greene plan, which doesn't spell out where medical deadbeat citizens will go.
However, Bluestem isn't sure if the Dalton man even caucuses with the Republican Party in Otter Tail County, although he gave Ron Paul high praise in a 2012 letter to the Daily Journal. Republican Party activist Camilla Ryan scolded him in the comments that Ron Paul's beliefs were naive. While Greene may not be a Republican, he is a Certified Magi Astrologer (p.7), so maybe he's on to something in that plan we're hearing about that House Republicans will unveil after August.
A viable Republican plan from Georgia?
People known to be Republicans, like Fox News, agree with Greene (and quarrel with Newt) about the existence of a Republican health care insurance reform alternative. Fox News' Jim Angle reported in No alternatives to ObamaCare? Republicans rebut White House claim:
"For the president to say that no Republican member of Congress has put up a positive solution, or a solution to the health care challenge, is simply not true," said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., who introduced his own health care bill before ObamaCare was even passed. . . .
One analyst says most Republican plans, including the Price plan, aim to give every American the same tax benefit as those who get tax-free employer-provided health insurance -- but put the power and the money under the individual's control.
Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute said those who pay the piper, call the tune.
"If your boss controls your health care spending, your boss gets to choose your insurance. If the government gets to control your health care spending, then they get to ration care," he said. "If you control your own money, then you get more choice and more control over your health care dollars."
That sounds a lot like an argument for eliminating group plans, because heavens forbid, we can't have bosses making any decisions about employee benefits.
Sadly, the Price bill--found here and essentially the same bill he's been throwing in the hopper since 2009--doesn't follow the Dalton astrologer's suggestions entirely. In a 2009 Politico commentary, Price outlined his philosophy for reform:
First, to ensure that every American has access to health care, we must reform the tax code so it makes financial sense for everyone to have coverage. Measures such as tax equity for the purchase of care, active pooling mechanisms to increase purchasing power and focused use of tax deductions and credits will allow all to obtain coverage that meets their needs. Providing proper incentives, we can achieve universal access to coverage without one-size-fits-all government mandates [emphasis added].
Secondly, we must return purchasing power to patients. Today, most Americans receive coverage through their employer or the government. As a result, coverage is too often designed to meet the needs of a third party, not the patient. The remedy is a structure that gives patients full ownership of their coverage. This will make insurers truly accountable to patients, reduce gaps in coverage resulting from job loss and provide patients greater choice and flexibility. Added benefits will be lower costs and the innovation essential for 21st-century health care.
Read the bill to figure out how that works. "Sec. 3. No mandate of guaranteed issue or community rating" means that Greene's #3 "Federal or States mandate that all insurance companies be required to accept all applications for health insurance non-selectively without medical underwriting" is off the table.
Yes, insurance companies could turn you down, and group plans would not be illegal, just one potential choice.
Price's bill has a couple of good ideas in it: Automatic enrollment, for one thing. And extending the employer tax deduction to individuals while capping it at "the average value of the national health exclusion for Employer Sponsored Insurance (family/singles) grown at inflation." This amounts to a huge tax increase, incidentally, although Price won't call it that.
But the plan won't work. In particular, its version of the health insurance exchanges will collapse pretty quickly. There's no individual mandate ensuring that the pool includes both healthy and sick individuals, no insurance market regulations stopping insurers from cherrypicking, and no risk adjustment rebalancing the scales when they do. In other words, this looks much like the reforms that collapsed in Texas, and in California. Price isn't learning from past policy mistakes, and so he means to repeat them.
Perhaps Newt's right after all.
Image: A 2008 note to the West Central School of Agriculture alumni association from Kirby Greene. To be honest, after reading about Greene's ideas about raising hogs and cows, Bluestem wouldn't mind talking to him about sustainable farming skills.
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