U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., is a co-sponsor of legislation that he describes as a “bicameral Republican blueprint.” The Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility and Empowerment Act would keep aspects of the current health care law — it would allow adults to remain on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26 — but it drops the requirement for Americans to buy insurance.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments related to the Affordable Care Act this spring and could overturn significant portions of it, including the individual mandate.
“There is a good chance that Congress will need to pass a bill this year responding to the Court’s decision,” said John Dinan, political science professor at Wake Forest University.
He said Republicans are working on the bill to make changes to areas of the law the Supreme Court might object to.
Gary Pearce, a Democratic analyst, said Republicans now hold the reins of power in Congress — though the party doesn’t have a large enough majority to overcome a filibuster or presidential veto.
“They can pass pretty much whatever they want to,” he said. “But I’m pretty sure it’ll end up going down the tubes when it gets to the White House.”
The idea behind the individual insurance mandate was originally a Republican idea, Pearce said, because it promotes personal responsibility.
“The people who don’t have insurance — (taxpayers) end up paying for their care,” he said.
The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, sought to remedy this shortcoming and drive down costs. It requires Americans to purchase insurance or pay a tax penalty. It provides subsidies for those who could not otherwise afford insurance and funds expanded Medicaid coverage in states that will accept it.
As of Friday, 480,000 North Carolina residents had signed up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act. The state hasn’t accepted Medicaid expansion, though Gov. Pat McCrory suggested in January that he would be open to it.
Burr said the Affordable Care Act has made healthcare worse because it increased the weight of bureaucracy.
“We can lower costs and expand access to quality coverage and care by empowering individuals and their families to make their own health care decisions, rather than having the federal government make those decisions for them,” said Burr in a statement Thursday.
Burr will have to defend his Senate seat in 2016, and Pearce said the latest health care proposal was political theater.
“Burr is doing exactly what Tillis did in last year’s campaign, which is saying ‘I’m against Obama,’” Pearce said.