Thursday, February 3, 2011

Health Care Liberty: Republican Acts Against Women

Instead of improving the American health care system, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell joined the Republican House leadership in an attempt to take innumerable steps backwards. The repeal-the-Affordable-Care-Act bill would, had it passed, have allowed insurers to discriminate against patients with pre-existing conditions by refusing to offer them health insurance, taken away subsidies for businesses to pay for employee health care, and reduced competition.

Republicans have couched their attack on the Affordable Care Act in terms of 'liberty,' claiming a general link between government regulation and reduced individuals' freedoms. It's a pretty nonsensical position, considering things like sewer regulations increase citizens' quality of life enough to provide for additional opportunities for liberty. 'Liberty' is not a zero-sum game with Government taking up oxygen for individuals' liberty. The position that Republicans espouse in their HR3 bill belies their commitment to preserving health care consumer liberty.

HR3 is a plan to radically constrain the set of health care options that insurance companies can present to customers. The Affordable Care Act provides credits to small businesses and individuals who would otherwise have trouble purchasing health insurance. Health insurance corporations will design their plans to cater to attract the maximum amount of federal credits to capture the largest possible share of the market. Any restrictions on plans will form the floor for the options available to consumers.

The Affordable Care Act is structured such that the Department of Health and Human Services will design these minimums that the industry will likely adopt. The DHHS is, after all, staffed with career civil servants and experts. The staff of DHHS with guidance from political appointees has more expertise than Congress, can craft policies that are not purely motivated by partisan politics, and is invested in creating a sustainable health care system. The institution is more capable of making the rules of the road for the American health care system than Congress.

The regulations that DHHS puts in place will be designed to reduce stress on the federal bureaucracy and increase the value of insurance plans. The floor standard for insurance that an individual will have to purchase is one that provides comprehensive coverage.

HR3 attempts to limit the options available to consumers by removing taxpayer subsidies for insurance plans if they offer coverage for abortions. The result is that coverage for abortions will be nonstandard in health insurance, possibly being priced into the "Cadillac health insurance plans" that are subject to an additional excise tax. Republicans are replacing a subsidy for health insurance with a tax for comprehensive coverage that covers women's health.

If you're a woman in America, the Republican Congressional leadership wants to make your health care more expensive.

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