THE BLOG

Rick Perry's Health Plan -- Same Old Same Old

08/25/2011 01:17 pm ET | Updated Oct 25, 2011

Rick Perry's health plan proposes absolutely nothing new. He regurgitates the same talking points Republicans have been touting for over twenty years. Without even seeing the plan, you could predict it would include at least three points: 1) selling insurance across state lines, 2) personal responsibility for health, 3) malpractice reform, and oh yes, one new thing -- repealing the Affordable Care Act.

When was the last time a Republican, other than Gov. Romney, proposed anything new for health care? When Republicans controlled the White House and the Congress did they enact any of this? Of course not. And why not? Because these solutions will not bring health care costs down or expand access to all Americans.

What is wrong with these proposals? Selling insurance across state lines simply means that insurance companies would locate in states which regulated them the least. You could buy a cheap health plan but it wouldn't include a lot of things you might need like maternity coverage, mental health coverage, certain drugs, coverage for extended hospital stays, etc. Personal responsibility for health is usually just code for shifting more costs to you, the consumer via a "consumer driven health plan." Here's some money, go find a health plan and a doctor. Good luck. Malpractice reform, by CBO estimates, could save $54 billion over 10 years, not an insignificant amount but it would reduce our spending by less than .05%. Texas enacted malpractice reform in 2003 and their costs are some of the highest in the nation and they cover the fewest Americans. (If you want to learn more about Perry's health record, look up Igor Volsky in Think Progress. He has written several excellent articles about what Perry's Texas really looks like in terms of health care. Also this Washington Post piece by Sarah Kliff on Perry's record in Texas. )

Repeal Obamacare? All the Republican candidates are promising that, but ironically, Obamacare includes most of the Republican talking points in the Affordable Care Act -- there is lots of room for "state flexibility" in the ACA, information for consumers about what plans and doctors they can choose, opportunity for state experimentation with malpractice reform, and lots more. What is not in the ACA is room for the insurance industry to deny you coverage because you had a infected toenail ten years ago or offer you plans that cover less than your hospital gown.

One thing we know for sure -- Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann will offer the same old Republican talking points with a strong splash of "let the states decide". Even Romney is trying to justify his support of health reform with a state's rights twist. What that means for most Americans is that if you live in California or New York or Vermont, you might get a decent health plan. If you live in Texas or Arizona or Mississippi you may be out of luck. "Freeing the market to do its magic" unfortunately means "let the buyer beware." When you get sick you may find out your coverage isn't worth much.

When the Republican debates begin, try this drinking game I have recommended before -- every time a candidate says "let the states decide" or "malpractice reform" or "personal responsibility" or "selling insurance across state lines", take a drink! But you better be drinking non-alcoholic beer!