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Healthcare Happenings: Your Guide To Bill Cassidy's Proposed Reform
12/05/2016 Andrew S

From Bill Clinton's reform attempts in the 1990s to the current debate over "Obamacare," healthcare has defined US politics for a generation. Virtually everyone agrees that the health system needs reform, but no one agrees on how to do it. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) hopes to end this debate, reforming US healthcare once and for all through the Healthcare Accessibility, Empowerment, and Liberty Act.

Bill Background

Repealing and replacing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is one of the Republican Party's central goals. Republicans at every level of government have expressed opposition to the bill, and after last November's elections, they now have the powerto do this. Simply repealing the law, however, is likely to provoke a backlash, as millions of Americans would lose their health insurance. Congressional Republicans must thus devise a suitable replacement before they eliminate it. With his proposed reform, Bill Cassidy intends to do just that.

Proposal Profile

The Healthcare Accessibility, Empowerment, and Liberty Act would automatically enroll everyone who does not have insurance in a healthcare plan. The plan would provide catastrophic health coverage as well as a health savings account and a pharmacy benefit. Enrollees will receive tax credits based on their geographic location and age, which will more than cover the cost of premiums. Any additional money from the credit will be placed in the health savings account to be used for future fees and deductibles.

Automatic enrollment is key to the proposal's success. It will keep young, healthy people who are inexpensive to insure within the insurance market, holding down premiums and reducing the risk of financially catastrophic accidents. Enrollees can opt out, but because the bill enrolls them and pays their premiums automatically, many will not even realize they have insurance until they go to the hospital. This proposal is thus likely to achieve near-universal coverage.

Opportunities And Obstacles

Though proposed by a Republican, this bill is likely to encounter significant opposition within the GOP. Republicans may object to it on the same grounds that they opposed the Affordable Care Act: that it takes away consumer choices and gives the government too much power over healthcare. At the same time, Democrats are more likely to support such a bill, seeing it as a way to keep the basic structure of the current law intact amid a Republican Congress. The bill is thus most likely to pass with the support of a coalition of Republican and Democratic legislators, working together to achieve bipartisan health care reform.

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