The GOP Two Face On Healthcare

We already know there has been a lot of past hypocrisy when it comes to the GOP and healthcare mandates. Mitt Romney imposed a mandate as governor of Massachusetts and many Republicans applauded the system. Then the Democrats put in a mandate in the Affordable Health Care Act and Republicans instantly jumped on them being unconstitutional (again – a point I do happen to agree with), but if your head isn’t spinning enough, take a look at this from the Paul Ryan plan (h/t JM Ashby):

Given this history, it would be surprising if Republicans were to endorse a comparably freedom-squelching measure in another bill. But on April 15, that is essentially what they did, when all but four of the 239-member House Republican Caucus approved Rep. Paul Ryan's fiscal 2012 budget resolution, the successor to Ryan's "Roadmap for America's Future" plan for massive tax and spending cuts.*

Ryan's roadmap would reshape Americans' access to health insurance mainly through two provisions, both of which pressure people to purchase private health insurance to an extent and through mechanisms that are materially indistinguishable from the supposedly toxic Obamacare mandate. One of these Ryan proposals—as yet little noticed by pundits or politicians—is almost an exact copy of a provision in the Affordable Care Act.* It would repeal the current exclusion from employees' income of employer contributions to their health insurance premiums, thus terminating the subsidized employer-sponsored group health regime that covers nearly 60 percent of all Americans. In its place, the Republican plan would substitute a refundable tax credit, to be provided to individuals who purchase health insurance (or to employers who purchase health insurance for their employees). When this new arrangement takes effect in 2022, the tax credit would be set at $2,300 per adult and $1,700 per child, not to exceed $5,700 per family.

Like this Ryancare tax incentive, the "individual mandate" section of the ACA, which the White House calls the "individual responsibility" provision, constitutes a pay-or-play option. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, when the ACA provision takes effect, individuals who do not qualify for exemption on hardship or other specified grounds, must either carry health insurance or pay a tax penalty as part of their annual income tax filing. The ACA caps individuals' penalty liability at 2.5 percent of household income above the filing threshold, or a flat dollar amount ranging from $695 to $2,085, depending on family size.

Under both provisions, the result is the same: People who choose to carry health insurance have a lower tax bill than they would if they chose not to. In terms of their respective potential impact on individuals' bank accounts and tax liability, the manner in which they affect individuals' financial incentives, and hence the constraining effect on individuals' financial choices to either buy or forgo health insurance, the two "mandate" provisions are identical. (Indeed, in most cases, the financial difference for the individual taxpayer made by the Republican tax credit would be greater—i.e., more "coercive"—than the ACA tax penalty.)

So not only does that Ryan plan have its own mandate, but the penalty for not buying insurance is greater than under the Republican plan. All but four Republicans have also signed off on this plan. All but four Republicans have now shown their complete hypocrisy on this issue. It will be interesting to hear their excuses for supporting something they have campaigned so ferociously against. Maybe they will just say they “didn’t read the bill”, but that goes against another campaign issue of the GOP. As matter of fact, that’s about the only excuse I could actually see holding any water.

As I have said in the past, I am 100% against the mandate. I don’t think the government should force you to buy anything from a private company. Auto insurance is not a comparably requirement either. Driving is a privilege, not a right (as upheld numerous times under the courts). Don’t want auto insurance? Fine – don’t drive. The only way to get out of buying health insurance though it to not live and last time I checked, suicide was illegal.