In National Journal, Former CBO Director Holtz-Eakin Calls Boehner Health Plan “Not A Serious Effort”

In a National Journal article published Saturday, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office who later became senior policy adviser on Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, blasted an alternative to the health care law offered by House Speaker John Boehner as “not a serious effort.” The article, by congressional correspondent Major Garrett, was discussing what Republicans plan to do now that the House has voted to repeal the health care reform law. Garrett wrote that Boehner's “bare-bones” amendment, which he proposed last year as minority leader, can be described as a “plan” “only in the broadest and most charitable sense of the word.”

The article further noted that, according to a CBO analysis, Boehner's proposal “would add just 3 million Americans to the insurance rolls.” From the National Journal article, not available online but accessible in Nexis:

The anticlimactic House vote to repeal President Obama's health care law this week begs the question: What's next? Where do Republicans take the policy debate over coverage, access, and affordability? Do they even have a plan?

Yes, they do, but only in the broadest and most charitable sense of the word. House Republicans have an alternative to the law, the bare-bones amendment that then-Minority Leader and now Speaker John Boehner offered last year. It would allow health insurance to be sold across state lines; provide federal incentives to states that boost coverage and seed money for state-based high-risk pools; expand health savings accounts; and take on tort reform. On Thursday, House Republicans ordered the chamber's top committees to draw up legislative alternatives that would lower premiums, provide coverage to patients with preexisting conditions, and “increase the number of insured Americans.”

Admirable goals, all. But the Boehner plan, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would add just 3 million Americans to the insurance rolls, leaving about 50 million still without coverage through 2019. CBO said that the proposal would reduce costs in the group-insurance market, which constitutes nearly 80 percent of private-sector premiums, by less than 3 percent.

“If it's all they do, it's not a serious effort,” Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former CBO director and chief policy adviser for John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, said of the Boehner alternative. “You can't just do that.”


Holtz-Eakin said that if House Republicans merge Boehner's alternative with McCain's 2008 proposal to convert the federal tax subsidies for employer-based health insurance into a tax credit that individuals could use to buy coverage, the GOP plan would have more credibility. But the McCain plan hasn't come up once in preliminary House policy discussions, and senior GOP aides don't expect it to (even McCain's proposal would have expanded coverage only slightly).