Treating a Dead Elephant

Terence Vent

May 13, 2017

As deals go, this one was beautiful. It was simple, it was obvious, and everyone got home in time for lunch. Paul Ryan added one more bandage to the AHCA bill, hoping it will finally pass a House vote. Ironically, the bill is so taped up that it probably won’t qualify for medical insurance coverage under its own rules.

The latest $8 billion bandage is a sop to Michigan congressman Fred Upton, a Foghorn Leghorn Moderate who balked (bawked?) at the latest AHCA revision for the same reason as the rest of the giant chickens: the removal of protections for preexisting conditions. The amount is large compared to the price of an actual Band-aid, but it’s piddling compared to a national healthcare budget. It had to be; the Yosemite Sams in the Freedom Caucus would not accept a larger amount. Ryan threaded a needle, finding just the right amount to give the Leghorns political cover without riling up the Sams.

It won’t work. North Carolina alone would need $1.5 billion to cover their preexisting condition budget, and states could take the money without guaranteeing coverage for anyone. They will be under no obligation to grow larger hearts. Just larger wallets.

The feds occasionally have to make a sloppy financial deal. Most deals assume some money will be wasted in order to get the lion’s share to the right people. In this case, though, it would all be wasted.

The money would wind up in the pockets of special interest groups, and health care would remain a great place to be as long as you don’t get sick. At least they will know how to apply a bandage.