Off Ramps

That’s the cool, new buzz phrase. Congressmen John Kline (R, MN), Paul Ryan (R, WI), and Fred Upton (R, MI), Chairmen of the House Education and Workforce Committee, Ways and Means Committee, and Energy and Commerce Committee, respectively, used it Monday in The Wall Street Journal to propose alternatives to Obamacare should the Supreme Court strike down Federal subsidies related to health care coverage plans bought through ObamaMart rather than through the State exchanges that the Obamacare law requires for Federal subsidy eligibility.

In the main, their alternatives are good ones, but there are a couple points with which I wholeheartedly disagree, and it’s disappointing that three men who know better would propose them.

We would allow parents to keep children on their plan until age 26.

That’s fine, but 26-year-olds aren’t children; they’re grown adults. They stopped being children at 18, or 20, or 21 depending on the jurisdiction. They stopped being children when they became eligible to make their own binding decisions on legal documents. Retaining sons and daughters on parents’ plans should be a matter of negotiation between the plan seller and buyer; government shouldn’t be involved in magnanimously granting permission—which carries with it the authority to rescind that permission later.

We would prohibit insurers from imposing lifetime limits on benefits.

This is especially disappointing. This, too, should be a matter of negotiation between the involved parties. Mandating an expense to the company, which this plainly does, forces a cost on the customer. There is a greater cost for paying out over an indefinite lifetime than there is for paying out over a known and fixed interval. Denying the company the option to offer either forces the company to pass on the greater cost to the customer, whether the customer wants that much coverage or not. It’s also an unacceptable denial of market choice to the customer.

[W]e would offer those in the affected states a tax credit to buy insurance.

This comes from the false premise that government should be the default source of welfare, and not the last resort. From that, it jumps the gun: the magnitude of the need is not at all established, especially given the initial fluid market environment that would be created were the competition across state lines part discussed in their op-ed actually passed. Only after private sources of aid have been exhausted, in that stabilized environment of lower basic cost for health plans, should government aid become available. (It’ll also be interesting to see how these guys propose to pay for these tax credits, but perhaps that’s for a later op-ed.)

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