Ted Cruz

Cruz: Republicans Cannot Drop Health Care, Should Focus on Free Market Solutions

"Eighteen days does not a final product make."

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Michael Brochstein/TNS/Newscom

The Republican health care bill that crashed and burned last week never got anywhere near the Senate, but Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Tuesday that Republicans cannot afford to give up on health care reforms after less than three weeks of legislative effort.

"We have got to get it done. Failure is not an option," said Cruz. "That House plan had been public for 18 days. Eighteen days does not a final product make."

Though he did not mention the president by name, Cruz' comments stand in stark contrast to President Donald Trump's remark last week that the debate over health care was "enough already." Trump indicated to the New York Times that he was ready to pivot away from health care reform, and Republicans' longstanding promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, in order to focus on tax reform and other issues.

Speaking at the National Press Club on Tuesday, Cruz said Republicans should focus on reforms that expand competition, give consumers more options, and lower premiums. That combination is easier to talk about than write into legislation, of course, but Cruz said the House GOP bill foundered because it did not do enough to introduce free market reforms into health care policy—something many conservative and libertarian-leaning Republicans want to see.

"There is a great deal of consensus among Republicans about how to get this job done," Cruz said.

Getting there, the senator said, would require repealing Obamacare's mandates on coverage, expanding the usage of health savings accounts that allow patients to pay for medical costs with pre-tax dollars, and allowing insurance purchases across state lines.

That last idea was a central part—actually, it was really the only part—of Trump's pitch for health care reform during last year's campaign. Yet it was absent from the House GOP health care bill that failed to pass last week.

More competition across state lines would be a positive development by removing arbitrary limitations on competition, and would provide more options in places where Obamacare has driven insurers out of the individual market. Allowing out-of-state purchases could lower premiums by as much as 13 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Michael Cannon, health policy director for the free market Cato Institute, argues that only insurers, health care providers, and regulators (in other words, everyone except consumers) benefit from the current structure.

On it's own, it's not a panacea for the American health care system. An analysis from the Urban Institute found that allowing insurance sales across state lines would be unlikely to reduce premiums without regulatory changes. Five states have already passed laws allowing out-of-state insurance purchases, but no insurers have taken advantage of the opportunity.

Still, it's an idea that would find "near unanimity" among congressional Republicans, Cruz predicted. That, he said, is where negotiations should start.

"We could do an enormous amount of good," Cruz said of Republicans' control of the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, "or we could screw it up badly."

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  1. Trump made an opening bid on Trumpcare, the Freedom Caucus – like any good dealmaker would – rejected the first offer as an insultingly low bid. So what does Trump come back with? Whining about how the FC aren’t negotiating in good faith, threatening to call off negotiations, suggesting he might be willing to make a better deal with another interested party. It’s all part of the game, we’ll see who gets the edge in the negotiation gamesmanship. My money’s not on the guy who prides himself on his ability to find an acceptable compromise, it’s on the guys everybody hates because they’re not willing to compromise. I think only one party to the negotiations is bluffing about their willingness to walk away from the table as a negotiating tactic, the other side ain’t bluffing.

  2. “Five states have already passed laws allowing out-of-state insurance purchases, but no insurers have taken advantage of the opportunity.”

    Why would they when they don’t have to? They won’t feel any pressure to reign in costs until the government stops raining tax dollars on the current insurers.

  3. On [its] own, it’s not a panacea for the American health care system.

    I don’t understand the rational for the restriction in the first place.

    1. I don’t understand the [rationale] for the restriction in the first place.

      One of the links explains it. Different states have different regulations, so a person could purchase insurance from a state with fewer mandates.

      1. Same cindition applies to car insurance and yet you have national carriers.

  4. More competition across state lines would be a positive development by removing arbitrary limitations on competition, and would provide more options in places where Obamacare has driven insurers out of the individual market.

    Nothing is stopping most people from buying insurance across state lines now, other than it being useless because none of the local doctors/hospitals will take it. I doubt the Republicans would be in favor of anything that would change that.

    1. “Nothing is stopping most people from buying insurance across state lines now, other than it being useless because none of the local doctors/hospitals will take it.”

      Wrong on both counts.

      Nothing other than laws restricting the sale of out of state policies.

      And just what do people who are traveling do when they get sick in another state?

      But hey, if it’s not a problem to buy across state lines then Congress codifying it’s legality certainly won’t be a problem either.

      1. And just what do people who are traveling do when they get sick in another state?

        1) Pay the higher out of network rates
        2) Personally have to cover anything the hospital charges above the plan’s negotiated rate since there’s no contract limiting the hospital to them.

  5. This reminds me why I voted for Cruz in the primary. He gets it. He might not be able to win, but at least he gets it.

    1. I wish his social stances were more libertarian.

  6. That which has been dropped may later be picked up. It seems to me to make sense to leave health care off the agenda for a while to work on other things, then return to this subject w a fresh approach. That works for a lot of things.

  7. It’s been ~2570 days, but whatever. Close enough.

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