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Hatchcare 1.0 Was a Better Plan than His New GOP Version

January 29, 2014

Along with his fellow GOP Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Richard Burr (R-NC), Utah's Orrin Hatch this week unveiled a new Republican plan to replace Obamacare. Due to its lack of a health insurance mandate, less generous tax credits to purchase coverage and stricter eligibility for Medicaid, the Hatch plan yet to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office would doubtless cost less than the deficit-reducing Affordable Care Act. But the Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment (CARE) Act would also result in millions more American without coverage, gut existing consumer protections and leave those uninsured with pre-existing conditions once again vulnerable to the whims of private carriers, all while shifting costs from employers to workers and their families.

All of which is why the American people would be better served by Obamacare or something very much like it. As it turns out, back in 1993 Orrin Hatch proposed a different health care reform bill that did just that. Call it Hatchcare 1.0.
Back in 1993, he and 20 co-sponsors proposed almost identical provisions as part of the "Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act of 1993." (For more background, Kaiser Health News has a convenient summary of that bill, as well as a handy chart comparing its features to the Obamacare law it resembles.) As NPR described Hatchcare v1.0 in February 2010:

Hatch's opposition is ironic, or some would say, politically motivated. The last time Congress debated a health overhaul, when Bill Clinton was president, Hatch and several other senators who now oppose the so-called individual mandate actually supported a bill that would have required it...
[T]he summary of the Republican bill from the Clinton era and the Democratic bills that passed the House and Senate over the past few months are startlingly alike.
Beyond the requirement that everyone have insurance, both call for purchasing pools and standardized insurance plans. Both call for a ban on insurers denying coverage or raising premiums because a person has been sick in the past. Both even call for increased federal research into the effectiveness of medical treatments -- something else that used to have strong bipartisan support, but that Republicans have been backing away from recently.

Alas, that was then and this is now. And now that Democrats have succeeded in passing health care reform along the lines he once advocated, Orrin Hatch has had a born-again experience as to its efficacy and its constitutionality. His turnabout, he feebly explained to NBC's Andrea Mitchell just days after President Obama signed the ACA into law in March 2010, was all about politics:

MITCHELL: Now, it was first proposed or one of the earlier proposals along these lines was in 1993 when you and other Republicans came up with counteroffers to the Clinton White House and the individual mandate was perfectly acceptable to Republicans back then.
HATCH: Well, it really wasn't. We were fighting Hillarycare at that time. And I don't think anyone centered on it, I certainly didn't. That was 17 years ago. But since then, and with the advent of this particular bill, really seeing how much they're depending on an unconstitutional approach to it, yea, naturally I got into it, got into it on this issue.

When Hatch pledged a "holy war" to stop the Affordable Care Act, he also candidly exposed the real reason for the GOP's all-out war on Obamacare. As he explained in a November 2009 interview with CBN, Orrin Hatch didn't fear that Democratic health care reform would fail, but that it would succeed:

HATCH: That's their goal. Move people into government that way. Do it in increments. They've actually said it. They've said it out loud.
Q: This is a step-by-step approach --
HATCH: A step-by-step approach to socialized medicine. And if they get there, of course, you're going to have a very rough time having a two-party system in this country, because almost everybody's going to say, "All we ever were, all we ever are, all we ever hope to be depends on the Democratic Party."
Q: They'll have reduced the American people to dependency on the federal government.
HATCH: Yeah, you got that right. That's their goal. That's what keeps Democrats in power.

To put it another way, if American voters rewarded the Democratic Party for helping fix the broken health care system, the prognosis for the GOP would not be good. Which is why Hatchcare 1.0 twenty years ago and Hatchcare 2.0 now were always just placebos designed to prevent Republicans from coming down with a serious case of minority party.


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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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