Health care compromise still possible

THE KANSAS CITY STAR

Republicans have stuck their hand into the hornet’s nest of American health care, and they’re getting stung. A lot.

Conservatives think the party’s health care plan, revealed Tuesday, is socialized Obamacare-lite. The Club for Growth calls it a “warmed-over substitute for government-run health care.”

Liberals think the plan cruelly underfunds health insurance for the poor as a sop to the rich.

Moderates — and most Americans — worry about adjusting to whatever new health care framework emerges from Washington.

Democrats can sympathize with the GOP’s plight. They went through a similar exercise eight years ago, suffering lasting political damage in the process.

Understandably, Democrats want to sit this one out. That would be a mistake.

Democrats may hold the votes to permanently solve the crisis that has plagued American politics for years.

Republicans should move first. After their bill collapses under the weight of opposition from the left and right, the party should re-draft a measure removing the worst features of Obamacare while enhancing the rest.

That means the GOP must drop the weird, tangential parts of its new bill: the clause renewing the tax break for insurance company CEOs earning more than $500,000, for example. Allowing states to remove lottery winners from Medicaid may be a worthy goal, but it’s hardly a major priority.

The cuts to Planned Parenthood and all the abortion language need to go, too. Congress should debate those issues in separate legislation.

At that point, the GOP could draft a bill finding common ground with Democrats, and Democrats should join in. Moderates on both sides support tax credits for premium support; they just disagree on how to structure the credits. A compromise should be possible.

Everyone dislikes the individual mandate. At the same time, almost everyone likes guaranteed insurability. Here’s an idea: Drop the mandate, but allow patients under 65 with pre-existing conditions to enroll in Medicare. That eliminates penalties and high-risk pools.

Republicans are right to object to excessive policy requirements that drive premiums up. Democrats are right that Medicaid should be expanded and strengthened. Yes, the chances for a deal are slim and perhaps none. Congress should try for the slim.

President Donald Trump won’t be much help. Republicans must learn the poor want health care, too. And we won’t get help from libertarians who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act and walk away.

The solution will come only from centrists who want to solve this problem once and for all.

This editorial appeared in The Kansas City Star on March 9. Send comments to editorial@therepublic.om.