To get an expert take on the revised Senate healthcare bill that was released yesterday, Buck invited Lanhee Chen of Hoover Institution to the Freedom Hut.
“A lot of what we see in this bill has been in the Senate bill for the last several weeks,” said Chen. “It has some great entitlement reforms. It gives states greater flexibility to have great healthcare arrangements for people in their states. And it really does give support to people to help them afford health insurance. Not a perfect bill, but an improvement [over Obamacare].”
Buck asked about criticism of the stripped-down plans that are allowed in this plan under the Cruz Consumer Freedom Option. “What’s going on there?”
“The idea is that we want to offer people more choice of plans,” said Chen. “Obamacare put in place federal mandate that dictated what must be covered under a plan. The idea is to return more flexibility to states so you can have a larger selection of plans. You may not want to buy benefits you don’t use.”
“I think giving more choices, more options, is a good thing.”
Buck asked if the bill would substantially bring down costs, as hoped.
“The hope is that because people can buy plans that only include benefits are going to use, premiums are going to be less,” said Chen. “The idea is, let’s give this healthcare system more choice and optionality, and the Republican bill tries to get at that.”
Chen brought up one of the CBO’s findings on premiums.
“Premiums in ten years are going to be lower in ten years than they are now,” Chen observed.
“Why did they back off on some of the tax cuts that had been in the previous version of this?” asked Buck.
“I think the tax relief the Republicans were originally seeking was really important,” said Chen. “Frankly what this came down to was an issue of optics. It was very difficult for Republicans to continue to proceed with large tax reductions for people who have done well in the economy, in light of perceived reductions to the Medicaid program. This really became a challenge from a procedural and political perspective.”
“Does this get passed in the Senate?” Buck asked. “I’m seeing they may not even have the votes for this version.”
“Never underestimate Mitch McConnell,” said Chen. “He’s a guy who is incredibly skillful at understanding what his members need, what they’re looking for, and how to get the deal done. Republicans realize we have a binary choice. We can continue with Obamacare, or try to move the ball in the other direction.”
“But we are not repealing Obamacre with this, right?” asked Buck.
“We’re repealing some important things in this bill,” said Chen. “We’re repealing the requirement that someone has to have health insurance, we’re repealing the requirement that employers need to offer health insurance. We’re repealing a lot of the taxes. We’re creating an opportunity for states to get rid of a lot of the requirements of Obamacare. I think this is a pretty substantial repeal.”
Click above to hear the interview in full.