Rhetoric is important in all political debates, but it seems to be especially dominant in healthcare. From "public option" to "death panel," it seems like the war of words has eclipsed the war of ideas.
With their one-page summary of their healthcare plan, the Republicans seem to be toting a new phrase meant to capture our hearts and minds: "Universal Access Program," described in the summary as programs that will "expand and reform high-risk pools and reinsurance programs to guarantee that all Americans, regardless of pre-existing conditions or past illnesses, have access to affordable care—while lowering costs for all Americans."
What does that mean? High-risk pools are offered by most states as separate subsidized insurance pools for people with pre-existing conditions. So the Republicans want to expand these pools in order to try to cover these people without mandatory health insurance.
Some of the other GOP proposals that have been on the table provide hints how they might do this. Here's what the Empowering Patients First Act from Rep. Tom Price of Georgia plans to do with high-risk pools:
- Increased Federal block grant for functioning, qualified pools
- Incentives: states will not receive credits unless they establish a pool
"Credits" refers to a number of tax credits the Republicans want to offer to get Americans to buy private insurance. These include:
- Extends the income tax deduction on healthcare premiums to those who purchase coverage in the nongroup/ individual market (above the line deduction)
- Deduction is capped to allow for a deduction up to the average value of the national health exclusion for Employer Sponsored Insurance (family/ singles) grown at inflation
- Provides low-income tax credit for premiums on a sliding scale phased out based on income
- Credit based on average healthcare insurance costs across the U.S.
- Credit offered is $2,000 individual/$4,000 joint/$5,000 family
- Full credit for individuals and families up to 200% FPL
- Phased out credit from 200%-300% FPL