In what appear to be his first public comments on the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that 23 million Americans would lose health insurance under the House Republicans’ bill to replace Obamacare, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) expressed no alarm over the finding, maintaining instead that Obamacare must be replaced and that “shortcomings” in the House bill will be taken care of.
But he offered only the vaguest ideas, which provide no basis for substantive judgement, on how this would be accomplished. (listen: May 25, hour 1)
“I think this gives the Senate a good look at what the House bill did, so that we can draft a policy that will actually do the job to replace the Affordable Care Act,” Gardner old KDMT 1690-AM’s Jimmy Sengenberger yesterday. “There’s a number of ideas that we’re talking about, that will be a solution to some of the shortcomings of the House bill, the bottom line being, thought, we need to be able to reduce the cost of insurance to Americans around the country. And we do so by allowing them to buy the insurance policy that they want to buy.”
Asked by Sengenberger for an explanation of how the Senate aims to accomplish this, Gardner told Sengenberger that he and his colleagues are looking at adjusting the tax credits proposed in the House bill.
Gardner: I think what members of the Senate are talking about is how to adjust the tax credit to make it accountable to more of an income means tested manner. So, if you’re older, or you have more health problems, you’ll get more assistance. If you’re younger, and you have higher income, that may mean the tax credit is a little bit lower — less tax credit because you don’t need the assistance of somebody who may have lower income or who may be older, or [in] a little bit less-good health. So we can put those tax credits to reflect the needs of the population.
Gardner also pointed to the idea, proposed repeatedly by Republicans, of allowing for insurance to be sold across state lines.
And he said he wants to push people who currently buy insurance on the higher-priced individual market into group health-insurance plans, which are cheaper. But he gave no details on how this would be done–particularly at a time when employers are shedding benefits packages that include health insurance.
Gardner: “There’s talk of insurance programs that would allow [the sale of] insurance across state lines, association health plans, to get people into group plans, to get people into employer-based plans.
What we’re talking about with the individual market is only about 6 percent of the people who are covered by health insurance. So we can restore competitiveness into the health marketplace, and into individual marketplace for health insurance, and then do everything we can to try to help grow this pool of people in group insurance through employer-based coverage because that’s where most people get their insurance through anyway.
And then we can help start using technology and other means to drive down the cost, overall.
So those are some of the ideas that we’re going to focus on. Health savings accounts, the tax credits, — you know– how do we make sure that states have the right flexibilities and functionalities needed, if they take over Medicaid, so that they can be better responsive to the needs of their state’s population, those are all parts of the Senate conversation.