Cruz­care, ka­put

GOP would find room for com­pro­mise by mov­ing to the mid­dle on health care.

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

Maybe Ted Cruz needs a new dic­tio­nary. His def­i­ni­tion of “free­dom” seem a bit off.

Our state’s ju­nior sen­a­tor has promised an amend­ment to the Se­nate’s health care bill, which he has pro­claimed a “con­sumer free­dom” plan. It would al­low in­sur­ance com­pa­nies to sell sub­prime health plans as long as they also sold plans that cov­ered all es­sen­tial care. Imag­ine if car com­pa­nies were al­lowed to sell self-im­mo­lat­ing Pin­tos and other lemons if they also man­u­fac­tured a car with five-star rat­ing.

This must be the Ja­nis Jo­plin def­i­ni­tion of free­dom — noth­ing left to lose.

Health in­sur­ance com­pa­nies have re­mained mostly silent on the de­bate over the Repub­li­can health care plan, but they’ve found the bull­horn when it comes to block­ing Cruz­care.

Blue Cross Blue Shield As­so­ci­a­tion CEO Scott Serota deemed it “un­work­able as it would un­der­mine pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tion pro­tec­tions, in­crease pre­mi­ums and desta­bi­lize the mar­ket.”

An in­sur­ance in­dus­try group, Amer­ica’s Health In­sur­ance Plans, has cir­cu­lated a memo stat­ing Cruz’s pro­posal would “frac­ture and seg­ment in­sur­ance mar­kets into sep­a­rate risk pools and cre­ate an un-level play­ing field that would lead to wide­spread ad­verse se­lec­tion and un­sta­ble health in­sur­ance mar­kets.”

But if you want an in-per­son as­sess­ment, just ask his fel­low Sen­a­tors. Repub­li­can lead­er­ship has balked at giv­ing Cruz’s amend­ment a full and fair as­sess­ment by the non­par­ti­san Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice. In­stead, they’ve floated the idea of ask­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to project how Cruz­care would af­fect the Amer­i­can peo­ple — not ex­actly a vote of con­fi­dence.

We’re sure the White House will deem it big and beau­ti­ful, but the ex­perts at the CBO could prob­a­bly do a bet­ter job of as­sess­ing how many peo­ple will lose in­sur­ance or whether pre­mi­ums will go up.

Maybe the prob­lem rests on the fact that Cruz is try­ing to com­pro­mise in the wrong di­rec­tion. A hand­ful of Repub­li­can sen­a­tors have threat­ened to vote “No” on a bill if it doesn’t gut enough from the Af­ford­able Care Act, or Oba­macare. On the other hand, there are 48 Demo­cratic sen­a­tors and a hand­ful of mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans who could be con­vinced with a mid­dle-ground pro­posal — one that, un­like the most re­cently rated Repub­li­can bill, doesn’t in­sure 22 mil­lion fewer peo­ple than the sta­tus quo.

So far, it looks like Repub­li­cans in the Se­nate are try­ing harder to win over the right-wing rather than the mid­dle ground. A new re­write of the Se­nate’s Bet­ter Care Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Act, also known as Trump­care, was re­leased on Thurs­day. De­spite some im­prove­ments — nix­ing ma­jor tax cuts for the rich — it still com­mits the pol­icy sin of cap­ping and gut­ting Med­i­caid. Half of all nurs­ing home costs are cov­ered by that sin­gle-payer pro­gram. Any cut or cap will just shove a fi­nan­cial bur­den on fam­i­lies who strug­gle to care for a grand­mother with Alzheimer’s or a grand­fa­ther re­cov­er­ing from a stroke.

Oba­macare op­po­nents have spent the past seven years promis­ing to re­peal the whole law, root and branch. Now they’re spend­ing their time and en­ergy pro­mot­ing a bill that largely pre­serves the pri­vate in­sur­ance pro­vi­sions of Oba­macare all while un­der­min­ing the long-stand­ing Med­i­caid pro­gram.

Ohio gov­er­nor John Ka­sich, a Repub­li­can and for­mer can­di­date for pres­i­dent, has blasted the new Trump­care bill as “un­ac­cept­able” be­cause of its Med­i­caid cuts. Mod­er­ate Repub­li­can Sen. Su­san Collins of Maine has said she’ll op­pose the cur­rent bill.

So con­sider this the ral­ly­ing call: Don’t mess with Med­i­caid. Make sure to let Texas’ U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (202-224-2934) and Ted Cruz (202-224-5922) hear that mes­sage.

There’s lit­tle to like in the cur­rent Trump­care plan, and Se­nate Repub­li­cans un­der­stand­ably are strug­gling to get the 50 votes they need. Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky. has said that if the all-Repub­li­can bill fails, they might have to re­sort to — gasp — a bi­par­ti­san plan.

Is that a threat or a prom­ise? In our dic­tio­nary, bi­par­ti­san­ship is a good thing.

Oba­macare op­po­nents have spent the past seven years promis­ing to re­peal the whole law, root and branch. Now they’re spend­ing their time and en­ergy pro­mot­ing a bill that largely pre­serves the pri­vate in­sur­ance pro­vi­sions of Oba­macare all while un­der­min­ing the long­stand­ing Med­i­caid pro­gram.

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