Sen. Richard Burr spoke today at a John Locke Foundation luncheon about his and Sen. Tom Coburn’s plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.
I don’t pretend to be able at this point to evaluate it, but it has to be of interest to conservatives.
Let’s assume most readers have heard why Obamacare is unworkable. Just one fresh tidbit that made me queasy: “We anticipate increased premiums for 2014 to exceed 40 percent,” Burr said.
Burr, moreover, had a couple of insights that were new to me — and truly alarming.
First of all, Congress has only two real powers to check a reckless president, he said. One is the power of the purse. But, Burr said, voters and even some conservatives found the last couple of debt crises so “unpalatable” that cutting funding isn’t much of a power these days.
The second power is to hold up a president’s nominations. But Harry Reid and Senate Democrats eliminated the filibuster option, so now it takes a mere 51 to pass a nominee. So that check on the president is reduced.
Perhaps as alarming, these moves will mean that more power will accrue to the other remaining check on presidential ambition. So this change “will very quickly make the Supreme Court the most powerful branch of government,” Burr said. “We may find it becomes the most political entity in the United States government.”
Yikes. Another legacy of Obama: an imperial presidency and muzzled legislature.
Anyway, he led off his talk about the plan by saying, as with Humpty Dumpty, “We can put the pieces together, but it may not look like Humpty Dumpty.” In other words, there’s no going back to 2007 in health care.
“There’s no way to fix [Obamacare],” he said, but added, “I don’t see a way to change this before the 2016 election.”
“This will be the number one issue” in the presidential race then. And, the senator said, “Even the Democrat challenger will be running on abolishing the Affordable Care Act.”
So what will replace it?
He asserts that his and Coburn’s plan is patient-centered, empowers states and individuals, provides robust competition, and is really affordable. Here‘s a summary and favorable review from Forbes. Here is a more critical overview from a conservative point of view. (BTW, the plan was also backed by Sen. Orrin Hatch at first, but Burr didn’t mention him.)
Burr does say it keeps some parts of Obamacare. Some conservatives will say, to follow on some of Ann Coulter’s remarks at CLC, that keeping the good parts of Obamacare is like keeping the good parts of the Black Death.
Moving along to some key aspects: It would have a federal tax subsidy for health care; it would empower the states to create high-risk pools to serve those with pre-existing conditions; and empower states to pass tort reform.
It would also allow states to modernize Medicaid to make sure it “is a model of health care delivery and not the worst health care system the world has ever seen,” he said.
He said it would save money, by taxing so-called “Cadillac” health plans, and this would ensure unions and top executives would “have some skin in the game.”
His plan doesn’t cover Medicare. He said that would be the “dominant target for the media” and apparently that’s a political bridge too far at this point.
He did say Medicare is unsustainable but must be reformed — later apparently.
He noted there were other plans afloat, which brings up a comment by his fellow senator, Mike Lee of Utah, at CLC. Lee said there should be ten plans that Republicans can hash out to come up with something they can unite behind.
Let’s just note that one option should be: Get the government out of the health care business. Let people get the care they want and the insurance they want.
However, it seems likely we’ll be hearing a lot about the Burr-Coburn plan and many other alternatives in the next two-and-a-half years.