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August 09, 2013 9:43 AM Health Reform Manana

By Ed Kilgore

Now here’s some exciting news, via Roll Call’s Emma Dumain:

House Republicans have held 40 votes to repeal Obamacare, but their promise to come up with legislation to replace it with something else has been far more elusive. That may be about to change.
The 173-member strong Republican Study Committee is on track to roll out legislation this fall that would replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act with a comprehensive alternative, Chairman Steve Scalise told CQ Roll Call on Thursday.
Though it wouldn’t be the first Obamacare repeal-and-replace proposal floated by individual GOP lawmakers in either chamber of Congress, the RSC bill is one that could at least gain traction on the House floor, given the conservative group’s size and influence.
It would, however, have to pass muster with House Republican leaders, who have not yet been formally acquainted with the legislative text, according to Scalise. It would also likely need the blessing of outside advocacy groups such as Heritage Action for America and the Club for Growth, which could make or break the bill’s chances of passage.

In the past a lot of conservative “health reform” proposals have been focused on this or that alleged contributor to rising health care costs (e.g., medical malpractice claims) or offered this or that specious pet rock (e.g., interstate insurance sales), but haven’t even made more than a token gesture towards universal access to affordable care. The upcoming RSC proposal will supposedly fill the bill:

The Louisiana Republican said the plan would include protections for people with pre-existing conditions — one of the main benefits of Obamacare.
“We address that to make sure that people with pre-existing conditions cannot be discriminated against,” he said. But, he promised the bill would not “put in place mandates that increase the costs of health care and push people out of the insurance that they like,” Scalise said.

An actual “guaranteed issue” law that was not backed up by pool-broadening mandates would, of course, boost insurance premiums for everybody. So I rather doubt that’s what Scalise has in mind when he talks about stopping discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions. If the RSC goes in the direction of dumping such people into a “high-risk pool”—what I’ve often described as crappy insurance at exorbitant rates—it will have to be dirt-cheap for the government and very expensive for “beneficiaries” to survive conservative scrutiny. And as the recent fiasco involving Eric Cantor’s high-risk pool proposal showed, would probably have to be state-controlled, vitiating the idea of any sort of national minimum standards.

So I can’t really imagine what this shiny new proposal will actually involve. Any guesses from readers?


Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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