In what is either a genius strategic move mere mortals cannot comprehend or a signal he’s trying to sabotage his own legislation, Mitch McConnell has been allowing Ted Cruz, a man so disliked in Washington he makes Dan Snyder look like Ted Leonsis, to shop an amendment to the Better Care Reconciliation Act to try and coax his fellow Republicans into voting for this dog’s breakfast of a bill.
Ted Cruz. A man so unpopular, he kicks sand in his own face at the beach. Ted Cruz, who is so toxic, he has poison control instructions tattooed on his neck. They read “To induce vomiting … lol, jk, you’re obviously already vomiting. I’m Ted Cruz!”
Ted Cruz, who is so friendless, his Facebook page’s “Like” button hangs out at the DMV just to get people to talk to it.
That’s McConnell’s Hail Mary play.
As we noted the other day, Cruz’s amendment is designed to bridge a gap between moderate and conservative Republicans by allowing insurers to offer plans that do not comply with Obamacare’s regulations, just so long as they also offer at least one plan in a market that does.
This way, moderates can say that consumers still have access to plans that cover all the EHBs (Essential Health Benefits) that have been one of Obamacare’s most popular provisions, while conservatives get to claim a victory for Freedom by giving people the option of purchasing plans that only cover catastrophic care.
It is sort of surprising to see Ted Cruz pushing a compromise, and will be even more surprising if the moderates come on board. Not only because it is still a terrible idea, but also because Ted Cruz is so unpopular that some senators have openly wished for him to be replaced by the more likable re-animated corpse of Preston Brooks.
Why is the amendment a terrible compromise? Because it is a transparent effort to re-segment the health insurance market into one pool filled with the sick and one filled with the healthy. What would that mean in practice? Ezra Klein explains:
The plans that have to offer decent coverage to anyone who wants it, no matter their health care history, will become a magnet for the old and the sick or the soon-to-be-sick, as they can’t afford, or perhaps can’t even buy, the other plans. That will drive premiums in those plans up, pulling younger, healthier people into the non-compliant plans. […]
So, in short, what the GOP bill attempts to do is to rebrand high-risk pools as Obamacare plans and make them subsidized dumping grounds for the sick and the old, while everyone else buys insurance in a basically unregulated market.
There is a reason high-risk pools were not part of Obamacare: They simply don’t work. High-risk pools are an idea even less popular with health care economists and policy wonks than Ted Cruz, and Ted Cruz is less popular than the Port-O-John at a vegan chili cookoff.
So it is hard to imagine what McConnell is thinking by sending Cruz out. Maybe he really is trying to sink the bill because he knows it is less popular than just about anything in America, including Ted Cruz. Maybe he made the Texas senator a promise about something unrelated to health care, like he’ll occasionally order other senators to sit with Cruz in the cafeteria. Maybe he just wanted to give Cruz a chance to make friends, since he has none.