After months of confusion and secrecy, House Republicans have finally revealed their Obamacare repeal legislation. While it’s useful to have House Republicans on the record with a legislative plan, the plan doesn’t offer any estimate for how much it would cost, or how many people it would (or wouldn’t) cover. In general, it’s not clear what problems this particular bill would actually solve.
The bill would replace Obamacare’s subsidies with a system of tax credits and halt the law’s Medicaid expansion at the end of the decade while grandfathering in many beneficiaries over the long term and giving states $100 billion in funding to work with to care for hard case patients. All in all, it’s a fairly conventional Republican plan, modified in ways designed to mitigate recent political objections.
The tax credit is, for the moment, the most controversial component of the legislation. As in previous drafts of the bill, the credits are refundable, meaning that individuals will be eligible for them even if their total tax liability is lower than the amount of the credit. The federal government would pay people, even if their federal tax bill was zero. It’s a subsidy, basically, rather like the one in Obamacare. Conservative legislators have argued that such a system would be little more than Obamacare lite. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) has complained that any refundable credit is tantamount to “a new entitlement program.”…
More broadly, it’s not clear what constituency this bill is designed to satisfy, aside from Republican congressional leadership. It doesn’t go far enough for conservatives, but may not be generous enough to appease more moderate Republicans either. (Democrats are, at this point, virtually certain to uniformly oppose the bill.) It’s a muddled version of the House GOP plan, which was itself a muddled vision of what a political compromise might look like, in some hypothetical world where Republicans actually agreed about health policy.