How Serious Is The GOP About Reforming Health Care?

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The answer: Not very serious, if a bill advanced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn is any indication. Read this story to find out why.

But in the meantime, I'll give you the CliffsNotes. Blackburn has proposed a piece of legislation, the Health Care Choice Act, that would mandate that states allow the interstate sale of health insurance — something that's currently illegal. It's the classic GOP free-market argument, the theory being that it would spur competition and drive down prices, thereby decreasing the shamefully massive number of uninsured Americans.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says that's some seriously wishful thinking — or at least it said so back in 2005. That's when Blackburn's bill was essentially proposed before, word-for-word, by Arizona Republican John Shadegg.

We were motivated to write about this by a story in The Tennessean, which proclaimed the bill as "another advance in Blackburn's profile as a policymaker in Congress." Respectfully, we call bullshit. Read on and you'll see why.

First, we got a response from a Blackburn spokesman that didn't make it into the story. When asked about worries that states with fewer insurance regulations would poach healthier people from states with more protections, consequently depleting the counterbalance that keeps rates relatively stable, he said Blackburn's bill has an answer for that. The bill leaves intact state high-risk pools, he said.

The more Pith thought about it, the less satisfactory we found that answer.

For starters, not every state has a high-risk pool. A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation estimate puts the number at 34, with a paltry 222,000 enrollees. Why is the number so low, you ask? Because they're a well-intentioned but failed experiment. They're too damned expensive, for obvious reasons. What can you expect from an insurance pool composed of nothing but people in various states of disrepair?

Of course, this is all merely a philosophical exercise. There isn't a snowball's chance in hell the Senate will pass a repeal measure, and it could be sometime yet before the U.S. Supreme Court gets its hands on the various legal challenges wending their way through federal district and appeals courts. And don't get us started on that.

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