In the wake of their passage of Obamacare, the Democrats have repeatedly claimed two things: Republicans don’t have an alternative, and in any case the health care debate is over. But a Washington Post editorial published Saturday makes it clear that neither of these claims is true.
The Post praises Republican Virginia Senate candidate Ed Gillespie for advancing an alternative to Obamacare, even though the Post remains supportive of the president’s overhaul. (Gillespie’s opponent, Democratic senator Mark Warner, who of course voted for Obamacare, received the Post’s endorsement last week.) The Post writes:
“Mr. Gillespie’s proposal was developed by a conservative group called the 2017 Project, which, as the name implies, aims to provide templates for Republican policymaking after the next presidential election. It is a real plan, which is to be commended. But it would be worse than the Affordable Care Act.”
We at the 2017 Project accept the Post’s commendation, and we commend the Post in turn for engaging the debate. But we think the Post's argument for Obamacare and against the 2017 Alternative is easily rebutted.
The Post claims the alternative would be worse in four basic ways: It would help people get “catastrophic” insurance but not prepaid health care, it wouldn’t include enough government mandates to provide sufficient consumer protection, it wouldn’t be redistributive enough, and it would raise deficits. The last of these claims is false. The first three actually highlight the alternative’s virtues.
Obamacare provides lavish benefits to a small portion of the citizenry at great expense to the citizenry as a whole. Take this example: A single woman living in Fairfax County, Virginia who’s between 21 and 40 years of age and makes $35,000 a year gets no subsidy whatsoever under Obamacare. She’s too young and too middle class. Meanwhile, a family of four living in that same county, with 53-year-old parents and an income of $50,000, gets a $10,294 subsidy — at taxpayer expense.
The 2017 Project Alternative that Gillespie is championing would instead offer the same tax credit to everyone, varying only by age: Those under 35 years of age would get a tax credit of $1,200, those between 35 and 49 would get a tax credit of $2,100, and those 50 and over would get a tax credit of $3,000. Parents would get a tax credit of $900 per child. So a 40-year-old single woman would get a tax credit of $2,100. A family of four with 53-year-old parents would get a tax credit of $7,800. In this manner, millions of middle-class Americans who buy insurance on their own would finally get a tax break, much as if they got insurance through their employer.
The Post objects to giving the same tax credits to everyone (subject only to the three age-bands), writing that under the alternative, “Everyone — lower-, middle- and upper-class — of a certain age group would get the same amount of help, even if some wouldn’t need it to pay premiums and others would struggle to make premium payments of any kind without [further] assistance.”