August 6, 2016
Could Trump loss spur ACA deal with Clinton?
By Harris Meyer
With Donald Trump's presidential campaign faltering, Republican health policy experts are gaming out Plan B for working with a Hillary Clinton administration to achieve conservative healthcare goals.
Their focus is on a possible "grand bargain" that would give conservative states greater flexibility to design market-based approaches to make coverage more affordable and reduce spending in exchange for covering low-income workers in non-Medicaid expansion states. A key element, conservative experts say, would be for a Clinton administration to make it easier for states to obtain Section 1332 waivers under the Affordable Care Act. Those waivers allow states to replace the law's insurance exchange structure with their own innovative models.
To win GOP backing for measures to stabilize the exchanges, Republicans will seek changes to make ACA coverage more attractive and affordable for younger people, said James Capretta, a conservative health policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute. That includes allowing lower premiums for young people, a wider range of benefit designs and premium subsidies for plans bought outside the exchanges and easing minimum benefit requirements.
Clinton's best opportunity might be to persuade GOP governors and lawmakers in non-expansion states to accept Medicaid expansion by giving them more leeway on program design.
Comment by Don McCanne
Although elections can be unpredictable, this time we can make a couple of predictions that are a near certainty.
Donald Trump will not be able to change his image as a dangerous incompetent before the election, and Hillary Clinton will be elected by default, even though she will remain unpopular.
Gerrymandering as a result of the 2010 Census will remain unchanged in this election, so the Republicans will maintain control of the House of Representatives with Paul Ryan as the Speaker. Although the Tea Party faction will have been diminished in numbers, enough will be reelected such that Ryan will have to include them in legislative negotiations.
Although it is uncertain which party will hold the majority in the Senate, it is clear that each of the two major parties will still have the ability to block most legislation through the filibuster. For the Democrats, that means that they can forget about a Medicare buy-in starting at age 55, and they can forget about a government-administered public option to compete with the private plans. For the Republicans, that means that they can forget about a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and they can forget about completing privatization of Medicare through premium support.
So for the time being, the Affordable Care Act is here to stay. Both sides will want changes in it, but only modest incremental changes will be possible, and they must satisfy both sides or they will not clear Congress.
Democrats will want expanded enrollment in the ACA exchanges and in Medicaid. Republicans will want less regulation in these programs. For the exchange plans both will want lower premiums to make insurance more affordable, and they may do that by easing the minimum benefit requirements, by allowing more flexible innovations in insurance design, by reducing premiums for young adults, and perhaps even by allowing premium subsidies for plans outside of the exchanges. For Medicaid, through waivers or through new legislation they may allow greater flexibility and further privatization to encourage non-participating states to join in the program to expand Medicaid.
These compromises will further reduce the numbers of uninsured and make health insurance more affordable, but affordable access to actual health care is already a major problem and these measures will make it much worse. Increasing the numbers of individuals who are nominally insured should not be considered a success when the tradeoff is the erection of financial and logistical barriers to essential health care services. Leaving patients sick and broke is not the direction in which we want to be headed.
What are the political prospects for single payer post-election? This January Hillary Clinton said, "I want you to understand why I am fighting so hard for the Affordable Care Act. I don't want it repealed, I don't want us to be thrown back into a terrible, terrible national debate. I don't want us to end up in gridlock… People who have health emergencies can't wait for us to have a theoretical debate about some better idea that will never, ever come to pass."
Never, ever. The political barricade is up. It is up to us to break it down.