11.13.2013 0

Clinton to the right of House Republicans on keeping existing insurance plans

Bill_Clinton-2013By Robert Romano

House Republicans find themselves in the ironic position where former President Bill Clinton has staked out a position to the right of their so-called “Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013.”

“I personally believe, even if it takes a change in the law, that the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they’ve got,” Clinton said in an interview at ozy.com, not putting any time horizon on it, instead offering that everyone should be allowed to keep your health plan — permanently.

Meanwhile, House Republicans only are pushing for legislation letting you keep your plan for up to a year, a bill offered by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

And even then it’s optional. The text of the bill itself says insurers “may continue after such date to offer such coverage for sale during 2014 [emphasis added].” May. Not must. Not will. Just maybe.

Is that the best Republicans can do? Maybe you get to keep your plan?

Adding to the House Republican plan’s problems, by only dealing with the individual insurance market where 16 million could be forced to switch coverage, the House Republican plan ignores the tens of millions more using existing employer-based coverage that will likely be in the same situation.

The Labor Department has estimated that up to 69 percent of the 149 million covered under employer plans will not be grandfathered in under Obamacare. That is 102 million people. The Upton plan does nothing, repeat, nothing to help them.

Given all of the problems with the law, how hard was it in reality to craft legislation that might have actually helped the vast majority of people being forced to switch plans to keep them?

Only the House Republicans could take this golden opportunity to make real changes to Obamacare and fumble it away with such a tepid response that even Bill Clinton apparently would say doesn’t go far enough.

The reason existing plans are being eliminated is because as many as 70 percent of them do not meet up with the new requirements under the law. The only way to deal with that is to eliminate the new requirements. Period.

If the Congress is really interested in letting everyone keep their current plans, it would vote to repeal or defund or delay the entire law. In light Obamacare’s many difficulties, why aren’t Republicans hardening their demands to at least push back implementation of the entire law?

This is the equivalent of General McClellan refusing to pursue General Lee’s army when it was on the run.

Perhaps the reason is the bill’s author, Fred Upton, who after the 2008 election bragged about his meetings with then-incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel where he plotted to deliver Republican votes for the Obama agenda.

Perhaps Upton’s heart is really not in this fight.

Because this legislation is so halfhearted, if it ever became law, it would make House Republicans just as big liars as Obama who said “if you like your plan, you can keep it.” The House committee Upton chairs issued a press release promising their bill “would provide millions of Americans the opportunity to keep their policies in 2014.”

No, it wouldn’t. It leaves 88 percent of the private insurance market untouched, and offers no guarantee whatsoever anybody will get to keep their plans. Just a maybe.

Fortunately, Republicans have until Friday when the House will vote to figure out how to fix Upton’s very flawed bill. Now is not the time for optics. With Democrats like Clinton moving rapidly to position themselves on this issue, Republicans need to come forward with a real solution, not a gimmick.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government. 

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