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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 09:06 AM ET, 04/04/2012

The Morning Plum: Obamacare may perish. What would GOP do about tens of millions of uninsured?

As I’ve been noting here, the Supreme Court deliberations really should be focusing the conversation a bit more on this question: If Republicans get their way, and Obamacare is struck down, what would they do about the nation’s tens of millions of uninsured?

Today’s New York Times has a good piece in which leading Republicans are asked this question. The answer still appears to be: To Be Determined.

GOP Rep. Fred Upton, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which would play a big role in developing an alternative to Obamacare, said this to the Times about the GOP plans: “Our wheels are beginning to turn.”

Beginning to turn? Republicans vowed to come up with a replacement for Obamacare 15 months ago. There’s also this:

Beyond some familiar ideas and slogans about “patient-centered health care,” the Republicans concede that they have far to go to come up with a comprehensive policy to fill the gap that could be left by a Supreme Court ruling this summer....
Republicans are dusting off proposals that date back more than a decade: allowing individuals to buy health insurance across state lines, helping small businesses band together to buy insurance, offering generous tax deductions for the purchase of individual policies, expanding tax-favored health savings accounts and reining in medical malpractice suits.
Many of these ideas were included in a package offered by Republicans in November 2009 as an alternative to legislation pushed through the House by Democrats. The Congressional Budget Office found that the Republican proposal would have reduced health insurance premiums by 5 percent to 10 percent, compared with what they would otherwise have been.
The budget office said that the Republican proposal, offered by Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, who is now the House speaker, would have provided coverage to 3 million people, leaving 52 million uninsured .

So, while Republicans are mulling ideas like “high risk pools” to subsidize coverage for those unable to get insurance because of medical conditions, little has changed: The “replace” part of “repeal and replace” would cover a tiny fraction of the number Obamacare would cover.

The key is this: Now that Obamacare’s demise is a real possibility, the question of what Republicans would do instead is no longer a symbolic one. Republicans can no longer rail about repealing Obamacare, secure in the knowledge that they don’t have to come up with anything to replace it. They may very well get their way: Obamacare may be repealed.

So again, what do Republicans — and all-but-certain nominee Mitt Romney, who has said the uninsured with preexisting conditions really shouldn’t have played “the game” the way they did — think the federal goverment should do for the nation’s tens of millions of uninsured? Is the answer basically Nothing? One hopes other news outlets will follow the Times’s lead and get serious about pressing for answers to this question.

* With Romney’s victories last night, the general election begins: Romney’s three primary wins yesterday essentially kick off the general election, and in his victory speech, Romney framed the choice:

“The president has pledged to transform America and he has spent the last four years building a government-centered society. I will spend the next four years rebuilding the foundation of an opportunity society led by free people and free enterprise.”

This appears to be the new version of Romney’s previous claim that Obama favors “equal outcomes,” and not surprisingly, it’s equally detached from reality. Romney’s call for a new “opportunity society” is particularly interesting, and as Steve Benen has been pointing out, it’s unclear what Romney proposes to do to faciliate this other than unshackle the private sector to supply opportunity to everyone.

Haven’t we tried this before?

* Debunking Romney’s line about a “government-centered society: Steve Stromberg hits on the way to do it, pointing out that Obama “differs with Republicans on the size of government by a few percentage points of GDP.”

Special bonus Romneyism: He actually admits that “free enterprise is not the solution to all our problems.” The great pivot is underway!

* Romney’s women problem, ctd.: GOP strategists admit that the contraception controversy damaged the GOP brand, will tarnish Romney, and make it tougher for him to pivot to the economy.

I’m going to reiterate: Romney will be widely granted the presumption of moderation the second he’s the nominee, and many commentators will write off all that stuff he had to say to get through the primary as just part of the game.

* Gas prices will fix Romney’s women problem: New Hampshire Senator and Romney surrogate Kelly Ayotte previews the message: Never mind what Romney said about cultural issues of great importance to women. What women really care about is how much they’re paying to drive their kids to soccer practice.

Of course, in a previous life, Romney spoke about higher gas prices as a way to facilitate efficiency and energy independence, so...

* Independents getting bullish on the economy? Chart of the day, courtesy of TPM: More and more independents are concluding that the economy’s worst is behind us, a key metric, because what’s most important is public perception of the direction the economy is moving in.

* DOMA back in court: With the Defense of Marriage Act back in court, and Obamacare foe Paul Clement making the case against it, Andrew Cohen makes a great point:

Congress has no constitutional authority to punish people who don’t want to have health insurance, Paul Clement argued last week before the United States Supreme Court. This week? The heralded attorney is arguing, to another panel of federal judges, that Congress has plenty of constitutional authority to punish people who don’t want to marry someone of the opposite sex. Last week, Clement defended states’ rights and labeled as “unprecedented” the federal health care policy. This week, he says that Congress can dictate terms of a federal marriage policy over the objections of states which have legalized same-sex marriage.

* Paul Ryan flim-flam of the day: How dare anyone raise tough questions about a budget that contains massive tax cuts for the rich and corporations without any indication of how they wold be paid for? Don’t those videos showing Ryan stalking through the halls of Congress in a state of deficit angst alone prove how serious and above reproach he is?

* Defending Obama’s “attack” on the court: Maureen Dowd goes where most top-shelf commentators won’t: Obama’s words to the court were fully justified, given that the conservative bloc is basically reading from the Tea Party guerrilla manual that was written to prevent Obamacare from becoming law in the first place.

* And the whacked out media conspiracy theory of the day: Joe Scarborough opines that Dowd somehow overstepped her boundaries with that column, and figures out a way to argue that this shows that The Times is trying to “play” the Supreme Court. Joe, it’s called opinion writing. Maybe it’s time to revisit the fundamentals?

What else?

By  |  09:06 AM ET, 04/04/2012

 
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