The GOP’s risky premium pledge

From Politico — Written by Jennifer Haberkorn — Image courtesy of Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senate Republicans may be all over the map on an Obamacare repeal plan, but on one fundamental point — reducing insurance premiums — they are in danger of overpromising and underdelivering.

The reality is they have only a few ways to reduce Americans’ premiums: Offer consumers bigger subsidies. Allow insurers to offer skimpier coverage. Or permit insurers to charge more — usually much more — to those with pre-existing illnesses and who are older and tend to rack up the biggest bills.

Since there’s no appetite within the GOP for throwing more taxpayer money at the problem, Republicans will need to make some hard decisions to hit their goal. But the effort to drive down premium prices will inevitably create a new set of winners and losers and complicate leadership’s path to the 50 votes they need to fulfill their seven-year promise to repeal Obamacare.

“Anyone can figure out how to reduce premiums,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “You can reduce premiums by kicking everybody that has a pre-existing condition off insurance or dramatically reducing benefits.”

Republicans say that Obamacare’s insurance regulations are responsible for making coverage prohibitively expensive and contend that premiums would fall if those rules are rolled back. They say they have multiple ideas about how to roll those back while also insulating the most vulnerable but have yet to weave those together into actual legislation.

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