On Wednesday, the hosts of The Cycle on MSNBC mocked Republican alternatives to ObamaCare. When Toure read a quote from Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) saying he wants to replace the ACA with a more patient-centric plan, Josh Barro of The New York Times wondered, “what does that mean,” and added that “it can mean whatever the listener wants it to mean.”
Later in the discussion, Toure and Kystal Ball sarcastically threw out words to dismiss GOP alternatives to the current health care law. Ball shouted, “patient centric!...cheaper!...flexible!” Taking a cue from his fellow host, Toure cried, “yay!...freedom!...no more tyranny!” Barro rejected other conservative ideas, like selling insurance across state lines and tort reform, as insignificant solutions.
Barro delved deeper into why he felt Republican alternatives to ObamaCare would struggle to gain traction among voters:
Often, the way Republicans would prefer to do that would be even more expensive. For example, they’d like to move people off Medicaid on to private insurance. Private insurance costs more than Medicaid. So, you’d have to come up with extra money. Alternatively, you could have a plan that’s cheaper because it doesn't cover as many people and then you have to explain whose coverage you’re gonna take away.
Barro’s point was that the greater the specificity of a plan, the more likely it would be to alienate some voters: “So, either way, once you get specific, saying replace ObamaCare is less popular then when you just sort of generically say replace ObamaCare with something that’s better than ObamaCare.”
The Republicans – while it is true that they have yet to unite around a single plan – have produced several different specific alternatives to ObamaCare. However, the narrative has persisted that the GOP lacks any clear health care plan.
The relevant portion of the transcript is below.
MSNBC’s The Cycle
July 1, 2015
TOURE: Wait a minute. I mean, there is a call to, like, let’s do something different. Let’s keep fighting this. Ben Sasse of Nebraska in the National Review today: ‘We must make the 2016 election a referendum on ObamaCare versus an understandable, common-sense, patient-centric alternative. We need a 2016 presidential nominee to not only prosecute the case against Obamacare, but also enthusiastically champion the conservative cause of putting families in control of their health futures.’ It sounds like, let's march up that hill but you have no legs. What is your alternative?
JOSH BARRO: I love that quote. The term the Republicans love to use, patient-centered or patient-centric, what does that mean?
KRYSTAL BALL: What does it mean?
BARRO: It can mean whatever the listener wants it to mean. Now, sometimes when Republicans talk about that, they mean what we should have [is] health insurance that only covers really catastrophic costs. Like, you know, say you had a $6,000 deductible and then you get a health savings account to cover your expenses up to that.
And I’d say two things about that. One is, ObamaCare is actually pushing people in that direction. And that's something that people have been complaining about with plans from the exchanges. If you buy a bronze plan in the exchange, often it is a plan like that with a very high deductible that will save you from bankruptcy if you end up with $50,000 in medical bills, but it is not going to help you with your ordinary expenses.
The other thing is, people don't like plans like that. People don’t like having to go and think about health care as a financial decision every time they go see the doctor. So, maybe he'll flesh it out around something like that. It's not gonna be very political popular.
TOURE: Talk about the politics – talk about all these people who don't like ObamaCare. Is it a potentially winning argument for some Republican candidate to say, let's repeal, let's replace, let’s change this thing?
BARRO: Well, but again –
ABBY HUNTSMAN: The polling that we just pulled up, it [ObamaCare] still struggled to get the majority of support of Americans.
BARRO: The problem is, once you outline a very specific replacement, you end up hurting someone. Either your replacement provides coverage in similar – in similar scope to what the president is proposing, in which case it'll be expensive and then you have to propose a way to pay for it. Often, the way Republicans would prefer to do that would be even more expensive.
For example, they’d like to move people off Medicaid on to private insurance. Private insurance costs more than Medicaid. So, you’d have to come up with extra money. Alternatively, you could have a plan that’s cheaper because it doesn't cover as many people and then you have to explain whose coverage you’re gonna take away. So, either way, once you get specific, saying replace ObamaCare is less popular then when you just sort of generically say replace ObamaCare with something that’s better than ObamaCare.
KRYSTAL BALL: We’re gonna have patient-centric!
TOURE: Freedom! No more tyranny!
BARRO: Yeah, it’s like, you know, patient-centric, sell plans across state lines, tort reform. I mean, tort reform would be fine. It would get a very small one-time reduction in health care costs, but Republicans tend to talk about it like it's some sort of major –
ARI MELBER: You know it's a long segment when Josh Barro has reached tort reform.