Politics & Policy

Walker’s Plan to Replace Obamacare: The Best, to Date, from the 2016 Field

(Valeriya Potapova/Dreamstime)

Scott Walker is putting forward a plan to replace Obamacare that conservatives and voters generally ought to find very attractive. It takes a scythe to Obamacare’s regulations: The plan restores states’ pre-Obamacare role as the lead health-care regulators. The individual and employer mandates would vanish. The federal government would no longer determine which benefits are “essential” for everyone’s health insurance. At the same time, the plan would enable anyone who wants catastrophic health coverage to get it.

The plan has four key parts. First, Obamacare’s regulatory centralization would be reversed. Second, tax credits would be provided to enable people to buy insurance. These credits would vary by age but would not vary by income — avoiding a feature of Obamacare that has added a great deal of complexity and has reduced incentives to work. Third, states would gain authority and responsibility over much of Medicaid. Federal aid per capita would be capped so that states no longer had an incentive to spend more money. Fourth, health savings accounts, which allow people to save tax-free to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses, will be greatly expanded.

Obamacare’s two main political strengths have been that it provides coverage to a lot of people who lacked the income to get it, and that it protects sick people from facing discrimination by insurers. Walker’s plan shows that these benefits need not be tied to Obamacare’s intrusive regulations and taxes. We have reason to think that roughly as many people would get coverage under Walker’s plan as under Obamacare. Some of that coverage will be less comprehensive, but much of it will be cheaper and provide more financial protection.

#related#Insurers, meanwhile, will be prevented from discriminating against sick people so long as they have maintained their insurance coverage. People will thus have both the incentive and the means to get covered. For those who are already sick and don’t have coverage, the plan provides for high-risk pools — but the need for them would diminish with time.

Walker’s plan draws on the best conservative thinking on health care and suggests that the party is in the process of building a consensus. It is very similar to plans that already have the support of the chairmen of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Budget Committee. Senator Marco Rubio has advanced similar ideas in outline form as well. Walker has presented the best plan yet from a presidential candidate, and we hope that other candidates will feel no compunction about copying him.



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