By Tom Quiner
Healthcare reform is stymied for the moment.
It seems that there are four groups in Congress wrangling over the issue: Democrats; moderate Republicans (aka RINOs); establishment Republicans (the Paul Ryan crowd); and Republicans who are conservative ideologues (the Rand Paul crowd).
Democrats call for tinkering around the edges of Obamacare (translation: more taxes and penalties), with an ulterior motive of moving towards a single payer system.
Moderate Republicans support reform as long as it maintains the mandates that were responsible for much of Obamacare’s high premiums.
Establishment Republicans support a compromise plan which repeals Obamacare and replaces it, in a single bill, with a watered down conservative plan, which they call phase one, but which will be improved in future years with phases two and three.
And conservative ideologues call for a total repeal of Obamacare in quick, decisive legislation, and ultimately replaced down the road with a conservative, market-oriented plan, whether it has a ghost of a chance to pass both houses of Congress or not.
Let us accept the earnestness of each faction.
I offer a modest proposal which I believe can accelerate progress. I call it the “Schmuck Strategy.”
‘Schmuck’ is a Yiddish word to describe a stupid person.
In modern vernacular, it is used to describe a person who is still paying retail for the goods and services they purchase. Think about it: prices have dropped on practically everything over the years: long distance rates; computers; printing; toys; watches; phones. Thanks to online shopping and the lucrative benefits of a free market system, the average Joe can shop bargains more effectively than ever before.
If someone is paying too much for cable television, they can switch to a Dish.
If State Farm charges too much for car insurance, one can quickly shop online with Geico or Progressive to look for a better deal.
We don’t have to be Schmucks anymore, except when it comes to health insurance. The government has boxed us in. They mandate “essential benefits” in each plan, whether you want or need them or not, such as maternity care for men.
Obamacare cynically forces us to be schmucks. Then-President Obama intoned that Obamacare would drive down our premiums by $2500; that we could keep our current plan if we prefer; and that we could keep our current doctor if we prefer.
Each proved to be untrue. In fact, premiums went up an average of $2500 per insured. The president was off by $5000 per policy! We’re not even paying retail on health insurance any more, we’re paying more than retail for policies with higher deductibles and more red tape.
The Schmuck Strategy will help. Here it is: President Trump can compel Congress to be fellow Schmucks with the rest of us Schmucks.
The Obamacare legislation applied to Congress as well as the rest of us Schmucks when it was passed. They, too, were required to purchase personal insurance under the terms of the Affordable Care Act.
Prior to that, their boss (us, the taxpaying Schmucks) picked up the entire tab for their health insurance. Obamacare seemingly changed that, requiring Congress and their staffers to purchase coverage on Obamacare exchanges.
But with a stroke of pen, Barack Obama undid the tethers that bound them to the monstrosity they had created. Via his Office of Personnel Management, he changed the rules for Congress in 2013 that reset the federal government’s contribution for Congressional members back to its previous lucrative rate.
For the record, this contribution is far more than other federal employees receive.
It even extends to some of their staffers.
Subsidies this lavish were reserved for those living beneath the poverty line under Obamacare, not those whose incomes puts them in the top 95th percentile for earners in this country.
The Schmuck Strategy calls on President Trump to simply restore the original intent of Obamacare’s treatment of our Congressional Royalty. The Schmuck strategy impels Congress to “feel the pain” that us rank and file Schmucks feel every month when our health insurance premiums come due.
Remember the adage, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’? Nothing will make Congress feel the necessity of invention better than experiencing the same pain us working class Schmucks experience, thanks to their legislative ministrations.
Ronald Reagan’s strategy in dealing with the Evil Empire, “trust but verify,” applies to Schmucks’ relationships with Congress: we trust Congress to fix this mess, but verification begins with the Schmuck Strategy. We’re in this mess together, finally.
Now fix it.