Home » Big Issues » Rescuing the poor: The GOP’s Obamacare alternatives

Rescuing the poor: The GOP’s Obamacare alternatives

When Barack Obama was crisscrossing the country in 2008 and 2009 “selling” Obamacare to the masses, one of his oft-repeated claims was that as a result of his signature legislation, health insurance rates would decrease by $2,500 a year:

That claim, along with several others Obama has made regarding the Affordable Care Act, has, of course, proven false. Did the president lie? Well, you be the judge.

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But one of the other selling points that Obama and his Democratic Party made regarding Obamacare was that it would be a boon to America’s poor and downtrodden; after all, they would finally be able to have health insurance coverage, and it would be subsidized to boot, mostly by the evil rich, now defined as any couple making $150,000 a year.

Still, as millions of Americans are now discovering, “subsidized,” in many cases, doesn’t mean “free,” and that is especially true of the nation’s working poor, many of whom are near the end of their working lives (or should be). Nobody told them that even a small stipend for health insurance, which is required now, per Supreme Court-sanctioned government mandate, would prove to be more than they could afford.

Take Barbara Garnaus. Prior to Obamacare’s insurance mandate, the 63-year-old was living a tight balancing act, financially speaking, according to the Los Angeles Times:

For nearly two decades, Barbara Garnaus maintained a modest, delicate life balance: keeping her part-time Orange County school district job and juggling her bills and credit card debt. …

She works 20 hours a week ordering pencils and testing materials, earning $22,480 annually before taxes, and isn’t eligible for the district’s health insurance coverage. She’s tried unsuccessfully to get full-time work at the district and elsewhere, she said, but felt it was best to hold on to what she had when the recession hit.

Her monthly take-home paycheck is about $1,750. With her $1,180 rent, about $150 on gasoline and $100 on utilities, she’s left with less than $320 each month for food and any other expenses, including medical bills.

In March of 2013 Garnaus was diagnosed with a rare but aggressive uterine cancer. Obamacare’s mandate that insurance companies (and taxpayers, through subsidies) must cover preexisting conditions meant that Garnaus was able to get the care she needed, but the added expense of the Obamacare-mandated coverage has pushed her financial resources to the brink. High co-pays and even higher deductibles under her “very basic” plan mean that while she has “coverage,” per se, she still has out-of-pocket expenses that are, at times, still too much for her to pay for.

She is, like millions of others, on the margins economically, and while Obamacare offered the promise of coverage for the kind of catastrophic illness she developed, the manner in which it was sold still is not living up to its hype – or the president’s promises – because it simply was never designed to do so.

Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a healthcare research group, said that previously uninsured patients living on the cusp of poverty and now required to buy insurance may struggle with the new financial obligations but should focus on the upside.

“These individuals will pay more,” she said, “but they will get better benefits.”

It is this kind of arrogant dismissiveness that continues to cloud the real problems behind the construct of Obamacare: What’s the point of getting “better benefits” if it breaks you in the process? And really, haven’t the law’s backers, including the president, continually sold Obamacare as “affordable”?

Republicans in Red States have taken a lot of heat from liberals for not creating state Obamacare exchanges and expanding Medicaid coverage under provisions of the law, but even in solid Blue States like California, where Garnaus lives, some counties have cut their welfare benefits as well, meaning fewer poor – and especially working poor – now qualify for extra assistance. The reason is simple: Obamacare coverage is going to be increasingly expensive, and prohibitively so, for tens of millions more people who earn much more than people like Garnaus, without substantial reform or replacement of the existing Obamacare statutes.

And this is where the GOP has the upper hand.

For one, under a plan offered by a trio of GOP senators – Orrin Hatch, of Utah; Tom Coburn, of Oklahoma; and Richard Burr, of North Carolina – the mandate to buy insurance would be repealed. Right away, the marginalized working poor would no longer have to spend their remaining disposable income on coverage.

In addition, their bill offers tax savings to earners so they can still buy coverage they need, but without having to spend their last dime. Also, their measure would keep the current Obamacare preexisting condition requirement, which means that people like Garnaus could have still purchased coverage for her cancer treatments.

There are other proposals from Republicans as well for Obamacare alternatives. Perhaps the most constitutional of those plans, which is offered by Rep. Paul Broun, R-GA., a physician who is also running for a U.S. Senate seat this cycle, it calls for no new tax hikes (another extra expense that the working poor like Garnaus must endure – Obamacare imposes a host of new taxes, on not just on “the rich”), medical savings accounts, block Medicaid grants to the states, and – a big one – increased tax deductibility.

 photo obamacare-taxes_2.jpg

A plan offered by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential contender, does more of the same, albeit with a few mandates. Like Broun’s plan, Jindal reforms Medicare and Medicaid, through Broun’s plan is bolder because he would make Medicare a choice, not a mandate, and would severely trim the bureaucracy.

All plans offer some tax equity, which is crucial to ensure that working poor like Garnaus can still afford coverage (if they want to buy it at all).

Equal tax treatment is crucial to reducing health care costs and the ranks of the uninsured,” notes Dean Clancy at The Federalist.

Finally, a newly-released plan by the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of House conservatives, called The American Health Care Reform Act would:


  • Fully repeal Obamacare, “eliminating billions in taxes and thousands of pages of unworkable regulations and mandates that are driving up health care costs;”
  • Spur “competition to lower health care costs by allowing Americans to purchase health insurance across state lines and enabling small businesses to pool together and get the same buying power as large corporations;”
  • Implement medical malpractice reform “in a commonsense way that limits trial lawyer fees and non-economic damages while maintaining strong protections for patients;”
  • Provide “tax reform that allows families and individuals to deduct health care costs, just like companies, leveling the playing field and providing all Americans with a standard deduction for health insurance;”
  • Widen access to Health Savings Accounts, “increasing the amount of pre-tax dollars individuals can deposit into portable savings accounts to be used for health care expenses;”
  • Allow for those with pre-existing conditions to apply for coverage without being discriminated against.


Democrats and a few Republicans won’t admit it, but health care, prior to the 2,700-page Affordable Care Act, was already one of the most regulated industries in the country. The additional regulatory burdens imposed by Obamacare are more than just onerous, they are simply unworkable – and there is reason believe that the Democrats may have wanted that all along:

How quaint the days when your doctor came to your house or, heaven forbid, you went to the doctor’s office and eschewed seven different forms for “guarantee of payment” and just wrote the receptionist a $40 check for your care. Truth be told, health insurance should really just cover the high-dollar cost of certain procedures and hospitalization from sickness, disease and accidents – not the ordinary or routine. But because the industry is so heavily regulated, and because the health insurance and hospital industries are so driven by all of the wrong things (profit is not bad but profiting on the backs of only those who pay premiums has been a disaster – same for hospitals).

Any plan that lessens government involvement and lightens onerous government-imposed burdens on both the health care and insurance industries would result in less overall costs, higher efficiency, better outcomes and improved doctor-to-patient relations – all things Obamacare was promised to produce but hasn’t. And won’t.

Some of the GOP plans will produce these results. And in the end, those living on the economic margin won’t have to sacrifice their last dime for mandated coverage that costs more than it may ultimately be worth.


  1. The government has place severe burdens on the people through health care. But I don’t think we should let greedy big pharma, hospitals and even the doctors off the hook along with the ambulance chasing lawyers.

  2. Personally, I’d like to see politicians of any stripe and color out of the health marketplace altogether. We are supposed to have a free market, so “they” say. Well, then, what the heck do we need politicians meddling in a supposedly free market for?

    Free means the market determines its own value and consumers get to vote with their dollars. The pc market place is largely unregulated and look at the pricing in that market. The medical marketplace is the most regulated of any markets and look at the pricing in that market. Any clues here?

    All the Republicans want to do is get their version of political meddling on to the scene. If they truly wanted to help the consumer, they would terminate more government regulation and allow the marketplace to determine value. Unfortunately, all they want to do is change the flavor but keep the regulation and make it seem like they are doing us all a favor.

    The biggest favor they could do is to go away. Medicare and Medicaid are going broke. They will not be able to “fix” it. They broke it by starting it in the first place. Social security is going broke (actually broke already). Same deal here. Almost across the board the same story. What the government gets involved in ends up with rising prices and declining quality and the more they try to “fix” it, the worse it gets.

    Think Dept of Education and our declining school systems. Think Dept of Transportation and our degrading roads and bridges. Think FCC and our cess pool of TV offerings now with its attack on morality and the family and individualism. Think Dept. of Energy with continuous rising energy costs and more.

    If the politicians really want to “fix” our medical marketplace (which they don’t because it would lessen their power over the people) they would deregulate it and allow it to respond to consumer demand NOT Big Pharma. Allow for competition in treatment meaning herbal and natural remedies etc. Cancer for example has many proven treatment alternatives which have better efficacy and track records than the Big 3 (Chemo, Radiation and Surgery) but all the AMA does is attack anything that threatens their failing monopoly over treatment as they have done with Stanley Burzynski and his anti-neoplastic therapy and the Gerson treatment system and B17 or amygdalin and others. Instead patients are locked into and frightened into chemo which is carcinogenic and highly destructive to the patiet not to mention highly profitable to the pharmaceutical firms. Or radiation treatment, a known carcinogen which destroys the DNA coding. Or invasive surgery that removes the localization so that the cancer spreads all over which essentially cures NOTHING!

    Instead, there is a medical monopoly enforced by government and now with Obamacare we are all forced into its model- like it or not – under penalty of law. So, yeah the Republicans want to terminate that but replace it with what- more of their brand of regulations which still leaves government and the AMA firmly in control.

    If they really want to fix it, deregulate and allow competition to operate and may the best treatments win. Yes, there will be mistakes but heck look up iatrogenic or physician caused illnesses and deaths and see where we stand. There’s your government solution for you. Do this and watch treatment efficacy rise and costs decline. And also witness a rise in self care and preventative education on the part of the consumer too.

    Keep government in it and we will see more of the same- a declining treatment system and rising costs. And all of this fails to note that in reality, there is nothing in our Constitution that permitted the government to get involved in the first place! That little part goes unnoticed by all it seems. Less government = more freedom. The best government as Jefferson said is that government which governs least and that especially includes the consumer marketplace which medicine, in reality, actually is a part of- another over looked fact of life. It is a service NOT a right despite what the Chinese, Cuban and Russian Constitutions and Nancy Pelosi claim n’est pas?

  3. Rep. Paul Broun is from Georgia, not Maryland.

  4. But that’s how they plan to fund the thing by taking everybody!

  5. Obamacare was of course NEVER really intended to be ‘affordable’ – it was intended to create a situation of unsustainability where the ignorant masses will be driven to finally and overwhelmingly demand that health care services be universally provided by a single-payer, single-provider national health care model, with all doctors and health professionals employed by the government and bound to a period of indentured servitude at minimal wages.

    So in that sick twisted way, Obamacare CAN be characterized as a runaway success. All the Democrats have to do is endure a few years of political discomfort until the system calcifies and there is no escape for anyone, and the population settles back into its comfortable opium haze.

  6. I think the advent of HSA’s, open competition and tort reform are all positive elements of where we could find a competent and leaner and more responsive health care system.

    With HSA’s, it will cause the USERS to allocate their “own” resources to use for THEIR best outcomes, as opposed to “let my insurer pay for it, or the gov’t pay for it” etc.. that is where any scale of efficiency breaks completely down, and which has led greatly to the notion of a ‘single payer’ obamacare plan (which is where they intend it to end up, don’t think otherwise!) but that is not the kind of health care Americans will be happy with!

    With HSA’s and competition, and the ability for the people to spend their health care dollars wisely, to get the most for their dollars, this will drive the industry to far greater outcome-based services for the consumers. It would save a STAGGERING bureaucratic ‘oversight’ and administrative MONEY HOLE, that is completely and impossibly unworkable. Who ever knew a GOV’T program that is run COST EFFECTIVELY???????! They do not exist.

    I look forward to seeing this alternative roll out to the public and seeing how it is presented by the MSM, who seems to be disinclined to give it any help. It will be the American people who will have to take the legislators and the administration to the woodshed on these issues, and FORCE OUR WILL upon THEM, instead of the OTHER WAY AROUND.

    Long live the Republic, proud and free!

  7. I insist, immediately, that anyone who has a pre-existing condition and coverage through their employer give that up, immediately. Also, if you are a “young invincible”, and your company offers health care coverage that you don’t buy, you must immediately subscribe. Otherwise your insurance company will surely fail!

  8. Great Post! Has always been my question thru all the Obamacare NONSENSE! There is not 1 provision for anyone that wants to practice alternative medicine. NOT 1! They force on me something I would never use. I Just Say NO!

  9. OK – Social Security is not broke. It never was. It is mis-used in the the sense that it was allowed to be transferred to the “general” fund and then borrowed against for “unfunded mandates”.
    MEDICARE/MEDICAID is not broke. Here again it is misused.

    Both are well funded pay as you go programs. They would be solvent for many, many years if they were used as intended.

    ACA is another program that will “consolidate” monies that will be mis-used. It will also create a great profit for insurance companies.

    You want to fix this then “mandate” single or family costs for every person or family. Allow “national” access (across state lines) that is 51% USG. Those electing private insurance (as n Germany and other European countries), will find it more expensive as they age to afford critical care and then suffer as they migrate over to state run insurance coverage. They do/will incur a financial cost later in life.

    I don’t think it is a right. I know that it is inhuman to restrict access to coverage because you can’t afford it. Be it to a doctor or for medicine (even alternative medicine).

    Most R&D receives some type of USG funding and almost always protected to allow for profit once accepted, so moving that money around as if it were entirely owned by a company may be argument, it is not one that is stand alone.

    In its present form ACA is a very weak and in my view not affordable. Anything above 350 USD a month is excessive in my view. Monthly that would place a very healthy sum in the pockets of either the USG or the insurance companies and still leave room for profit.

    You just have to swallow some corporate greed and live with the satisfaction of providing a service to the Nation.

  10. all sounded good on paper to those who didn’t realize whenever little O flaps his lips, he’s lying. Like patriot act – anything but patriotic, affordable care act is anything but.

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