The GOP Health Care Law Is Missing a Surprising Number of Tea Party Hobbyhorses

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


I was reading through the Republican health care bill last night, and it struck me that a lot of longtime Republican hobbyhorses are missing. This is a tentative guess on my part, since big chunks of the bill look like this:

You can hide a lot in legalese like that, which is why it pays to have experts pore through the text of a bill looking for Easter eggs. That said, I’m pretty sure the bill doesn’t include any of the following:

  • No tort reform. That’s not a surprise, I guess, since it’s a big subject and Republicans could barely even agree on the basics.
  • No insurance sales across state lines. This has been a huge talking point among both Republicans and President Trump since forever. It’s almost literally their panacea for the entire health care market. But it’s not in the bill.
  • No change to the essential benefits required of all health care plans. This has also been a huge GOP talking point. They insist that Obamacare forces people to buy more insurance than they need, and insurance companies need to be set free to offer whatever they want.
  • Obamacare is chockablock with regulations of all kinds, including incentives to reduce costs and rules about how doctors are paid. These appear to be intact under the Republican bill.

Why is this? If you look carefully, you’ll see what these things all have in common: they don’t directly affect the federal budget, which means they can’t be passed via reconciliation. They have to be passed in a separate bill under regular order, which means Democrats can filibuster them. Republicans don’t have 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster, so they can’t do any of this stuff.

Republicans can starve the subsidies to make Obamacare virtually useless for the poor, but they can’t repeal the entire law. The result of such a partial repeal is likely to be such obvious chaos that they’ll be lucky to get their bill passed in the House, let alone the Senate. There are bound to be at least three senators who just aren’t willing to clap loudly and pretend that everything is OK. It’s very hard to see a path to passage for this bill.

UPDATE: I originally said that Timothy Jost claimed the GOP health care bill eliminates Obamacare’s medical loss ratio. That was a misreading on my part. He was talking about the actuarial value of the various metal levels. Apologies. I’ve removed this from the text.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate