As GOP Dawdles, Liberals Prepare Obamacare 2.0

Obamacare by from Washington Examiner, January 23, 2015

After Hillary Clinton’s healthcare proposal died in 1994, conservatives moved on to other issues. But liberal activists regrouped, learned lessons from their failure, and laid the groundwork for their next opening to advance national healthcare legislation. That effort eventually led to the passage of Obamacare.

Families USA was one of the main organizations that kept hope alive for a universal coverage program back when prospects were bleak, and the group helped shape President Obama’s health care law. Now that Obamacare is in place, the group is preparing to build on it.

In a recent report, dubbed “Health Reform 2.0,” Families USA offered 19 different changes to healthcare law. Taken together, the changes would pick up where liberals left off in March 2010, when they pulled together to support the passage of Obamacare even though it didn’t go quite as far as they would have liked.

The proposals follow the classic approach of big government liberals — responding to problems caused by big government by calling for even bigger government.

Obamacare imposed a raft of regulations on insurance policies, to which insurers have responded in several ways. One way has been to jack up premiums. Another way has been to raise deductibles and copayments. And yet another has been to restrict the numbers of doctors and hospitals that are available to their enrollees.

Even though Obamacare spends $1.8 trillion over the next decade expanding insurance coverage, by 2022, there will still be 31 million Americans without insurance. Families USA calls this “unacceptable.”

Instead of calling for a rollback of regulations that have caused insurers to increase premiums and cost-sharing, however, the group calls for additional mandates, such as a requirement that insurers offer plans that would exempt certain services from the deductible; requirements for insurers to expand access to medical providers; and a mandate that every health plan (in addition to Medicare and Medicaid) cover adult dental care.

All of these mandates would drive up the price tag of insurance even more than Obamacare already has. But another proposal would increase the value of the subsidies for individuals to purchase insurance through Obamacare’s exchanges. In other words, in the Families USA vision for the future of the American health care system, more government spending would be perpetually chasing the costs imposed by more government mandates.

In addition to these changes, Families USA proposes price controls on prescription drugs, a liberal goal that had to be abandoned during the Obamacare fight when the administration obtained the support of the pharmaceutical industry lobby.

To be sure, nobody believes that any serious expansion of Obamacare can be passed any time soon, as long as Republicans have full control of Congress and Democrats’ wounds from passing the original law are still quite fresh. But in the wake of the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress, liberal proponents of universal coverage might have been written off as well.

As I detail in my book, Overcoming Obamacare, if Republicans fail to coalesce around an alternative health care proposal, Democrats will inevitably wait for their next opening to build on the law, working incrementally toward their ultimate goal of a fully government-run, or single-payer, healthcare system.

The Families USA proposal should be taken seriously by conservatives as a window into how the next Democratic president could further advance that goal.

© 2015 by the Washington Examiner. Reprinted with permission.