Speaker Paul Ryan Convenes Task Force on ACA Replacement
May 3, 2016 11:55 AM
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has shown his determination to ensure that the Republican Party shows its leadership abilities and keeps its promises to the American public. The Speaker took some satisfaction in finally getting an ACA repeal bill on to the President’s desk. While the President vetoed the bill, Speaker Ryan sees the action as a place holder, a harbinger, of what is to come with the hoped election of a Republican President. The Speaker has worked to seal off vulnerability and, at the same time, show leadership by urging his House Committee Chairmen with jurisdiction to write a bill to capture the public imagination and win enactment as a better alternative to the ACA.
Speaker Ryan has announced the creation of the House Task Force on Health Care Reform. Its mission is to, “modernize American health care with patient centered solutions that lower costs, promote innovation, strengthen the safety net for the most vulnerable, and improve access, choice, and quality.
The rationale for change: “Obamacare is proof that putting the government at the center of our health care system harms patients, providers, and businesses.” As an alternative, the Speaker has pointed to “innovative, market based, and patient centered solutions.”
The members of the task force include: Budget Committee Chairman, Tom Price (R-GA); Education and Workforce Committee Chairman, John Kline (R-MN); Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman, Fred Upton (R-MI); and Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Kevin Brady (R-TX).
The goals of the task force are to: 1) empower every American to gain access to coverage that is affordable and portable; 2) provide Americans with more choices; 3) protect the quality of care for all patients—including those with pre-existing conditions; 4) provide innovation to improve competition, harness the power of new technologies, lower prices, and foster better cures and treatments; and 5) save Medicare and Medicaid to strengthen health care security for seniors and America’s most vulnerable.
Speaker Ryan has long sought to rein in Medicare spending. But, in the context of the task force, he seemed to telegraph his policy to change the nature of Medicare in the future from an entitlement program to one based on premium support. The idea would be to give newly retired seniors a voucher and allow them to go shopping and choose whatever plan they thought was best suited to their needs. This plan also offers the ability to predict, reduce, and limit the impact on federal spending. Speaker Ryan has expressed similar concerns about Medicaid. “Medicaid is projected to grow by 75 percent within the next ten years leading to a fear that it will overwhelm state and federal budgets and fail the vulnerable people who need it the most.” The solution proposed for Medicaid is to convert the federal share of Medicaid into a block grant tailored to reach each state’s needs, indexed for inflation and population growth. The states would also be freed from federal program requirements and enrollment criteria.
The four committee chairmen have been meeting and report good progress. It should be stated that they expect to produce a group of principles, but not an actual bill. Energy & Commerce Chairman, Fred Upton, told Sara Ferris of The Hill newspaper, “Give us a little time, a month or so, and we will be very close to producing a Republican alternative.” Speaker Ryan’s idea is to have a plan that is a reasonable alternative, which can be embraced by the GOP’s nominee for President and all others on the ballot who are running for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
Democrats are skeptical that much will come of this effort because of what they called the paucity of alternatives. They make the case that it is impossible to come up with a better plan, which does not take away insurance coverage for tens of millions of U.S. citizens.