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November 14, 2013 11:20 AM The Upton Bill In a Nutshell

By Ed Kilgore

Since there’s been a lot of confusion about the impact of Fred Upton’s bill (due for a House vote tomorrow) to let insurers sell non-ACA-compliant individual policies under the rationale of “relief” to people freaking out over cancellations, here’s a succinct description from TNR’s ever-excellent Jonathan Cohn about why it could represent a catastrophe:

[T]he Upton bill doesn’t seek simply to leave existing policies in place for people who have them. It would also allow insurers to sell the policies to new customers. That goes way beyond grandfathering, because the cheaper, skimpier plans would siphon off the healthiest enrollees—and do so in perpetuity. This (probably) makes it worse than the (still objectionable) proposal Democrat Mary Landrieu has proposed in the Senate. If the Upton bill passed, Obamacare’s reforms of the market might become effectively meaningless. In short, the Upton bill is a not-thinly-disguised effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

That’s also the conclusion the anti-ACA writer James Capretta reaches at the Weekly Standard in calling the Upton bill “an escape from Obamacare, not a fix for the fatally flawed legislation.”

It’s possible, as Brian Beutler has suggested, that insurers might not take advantage of the Upton bill, minimizing its disruptive effect. It’s also possible state insurance regulators could thwart it. And were it to survive into a House-Senate conference committee, Democrats would almost certainly try to limit its scope to insurance renewals rather than new policy sales, which, again, would minimize its operation as a wholesale “escape from Obamacare” for the individual insurance market. But there’s no question the idea behind Upton is profoundly destructive even as it purports to be some sort of “relief” measure, and that’s why so many Republicans are embracing it.

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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