CMR’s Non-Solution to the Health Care Dilemma

Dear Group,

On Wednesday I presented a lengthy transcription from McMorris Rodgers’ town hall at Green Bluff demonstrating her lack of comprehension of basic economic and accounting principles as applied to health care. If you haven’t read it I encourage you to do so by clicking here.

Two days later, on Thursday, May 31st, at her “Conversation with Cathy” in Pullman, McMorris Rodgers indicated she is concerned over rising health insurance premiums. Her solution? Deregulation of health insurance offerings and a tax break for those with means (presumably so these folk can better afford the ever increasing price of health care).

The Spokesman did not bother to cover the Pullman town hall at all. You can watch the whole interaction here. I’ve transcribed from that recording the very first exchange (starting at 09:19 after her opening remarks):

Young man: You voted to take health care away from 18 million Americans and I want to know why.

CMR: …Well…The legislation that I voted on didn’t take care away from anyone. What it did was it…ah…what it did was it…ah…it repealed the Affordable Care Act and replaced it with an approach that would empower you as an individual to have more options…and more access, and…ah…would insure…it protected those with pre-existing conditions…ah, but it, what it would do is repeal some of the regulations coming from the federal level so that we would have more options as individuals and small businesses with health insurance plans that would better meet your needs…and right now we continue to see premiums going up for individuals, for families, for small businesses…ah…people have lost their health insurance of choice. People are feeling like they can’t afford their health insurance and I believe we must do better. So I continue to work on legislation that is going to make sure that everyone has affordable and quality health insurance.

Young man: You say everyone… you mean those that can buy it when it gets so expensive they lose their Obamacare? [garbled]

CMR: So,, so…when…ah…no. ah [mild laughter] ahh…When you’re talk…so,,,CBO…this 18 million was the government approved health insurance plans…right? I don’t…you know…that’s where I don’t think that the federal government needs to be the one just because I think individuals should have more options…whether it is Health Savings Accounts, whether it’s association health plans, that’s where I think local, more individuals having more options is going to serve everyone better…and you can make the best decisions for yourself, not the federal government deciding what’s going to have to be in every health insurance plan.   (ending at 11:38)

Step back. McMorris Rodgers demonstrates no recognition of the cost of health care that drives the cost of insurance. The main thrust of her argument is the federal government should not regulate the health insurance market. Essentially she argus health insurance deregulation, a return to the status quo ante of deceptive health insurance policies with acres of unintelligible fine print, THAT will make it all better.

She says she will “continue to work on legislation that is going to make sure that everyone has affordable and quality health insurance.” What does she offer? “Health Savings Accounts” and “Association Health Plans.”

How, Cathy, do either of these things offer health insurance that is “affordable” AND high “quality?” If the underlying cost of health care overall does not change, “affordable” health insurance and high “quality” health insurance inevitably butt heads, one undercuts the other. If the health insurance is cheaper (“affordable”) inevitably it will cover less health care.  

So what is an “Association Health Plan,” anyway? An AHP is another way for Trump and his Republicans to further dismantle the health insurance regulations under the Affordable Care Act. Don’t like the cost of your health insurance? Their answer: Don’t tackle the underlying cost of health care. No. Instead, allow insurance companies to offer health insurance policies that don’t cover what you might need, policies that can exclude people with pre-existing conditions or charge them higher premiums, policies that, in short, become “affordable” by offering a lower “quality” (less comprehensive) product. There is a good summary of how AHPs work in The Washington Post’s The Health 202 from June 19th. AHPs are just a different name for the pre-ACA health insurance offerings that left millions either uninsured (or inadequately insured) and vulnerable to medical bankruptcy. People go without care or they receive care and society pays for it in other ways harder to see: citizen’s financial lives are ruined, providers go uncompensated in the event of medical bankruptcy (and seek payment from other sources), or society pays for it with sicker citizens less able to work or in taxes used to cover disability and medical coverage for the resulting indigent rendered bankrupt by the system. 

Health Savings Accounts? A Health Savings Account is a tax break for those with enough money, time, and attention to set up such an account. It is a self-serving handout to people like Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The tax break takes money out of federal coffers, money that could and should be spent on a host of other things, and rewards that money to the likes of McMorris Rodgers and her upper middle class peers. In fact, the higher the HSA account holder’s marginal tax bracket the more of a tax break an HSA offers. From an accounting standpoint HSAs are another example of the already well-to-do rewarding themselves, another way to increase wealth disparity and widen the chasm of financial insecurity.

I am convinced McMorris Rodgers is fully sincere. How else could she keep a straight face and offer up such nonsense as a solution to the health care dilemma? She lacks the perspective that should allow her to see Health Savings Accounts and Association Health Plans for what they really are. 

McMorris Rodgers doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. 

Keep to the high ground,


P.S.  In the Green Bluff and Pullman town halls combined, McMorris Rodgers acknowledged only medical malpractice lawsuits and the price of drugs as drivers of the price of health care–and failed to offer a useful analysis of either. (I will present her quotes and my thoughts in a later post.)