Ted Cruz cares about people in need. Stop laughing. Okay, you can laugh a little.
The Texas right-wing firebrand (by way of Calgary, Canada) unveiled his alternative to Obamacare on Tuesday. I guess we can call it "Cruzcare" or maybe even, "TeddyCare." You see, Cruz is apparently deeply concerned about the 7.5 million Americans in 36 states who might lose federal government subsidies now provided by Obamacare to buy health insurance in a few months. That very scenario could happen if the Supreme Court rules against the Obama administration in the case of King v. Burwell that was heard by the Court yesterday.
But believing that Cruz cares about anything other than getting headlines and anyone other than his far-right base is like believing Justin Bieber cares about the two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
That’s why I can’t help but be very suspicious when Cruz says he wants to help people in need. I mean, just look at this guy’s track record. He was so obsessed with killing Obamacare and stripping the benefits it provides for millions of Americans that he led the charge in 2013 to shut down the government in an effort to defund the health care law. He even famously performed a one-man show on the floor of the Senate (aka a filibuster) where he railed against Obamacare. Although on the upside, during the filibuster he did read one of my favorite books, Green Eggs and Ham.
He not only fiercely opposes Obama’s proposed immigration reform that would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, he even opposes deferring deportations of Dreamers, the children of undocumented immigrants, apparently preferring they be dumped outside of the borders of our country. Add to that, Cruz bragged during his 2012 successful run for Senate that he championed the execution of a Mexican “illegal alien” while he was Texas’s Solicitor General.
This is the same Cruz who has shown little compassion for those in poverty. He has even been a leader in the fight to prevent an increase in the federal minimum wage.
But now Cruz, whose own health benefits are bestowed through his wife’s policy thanks to her great position at Goldman Sachs, tells us he wants to help those Americans who might no longer be able to afford health insurance.
So what has Cruz offered? Well, to his credit, he actually drafted a piece of legislation, titled the “Health Care Choice Act of 2015.” (PDF) This is in contrast to 2014 when Cruz promised a detailed Obamacare alternative and only gave us a tattoo of Winston Churchill. I’m not kidding. While on Fox News last April, when asked about his health care plan, Cruz responded by rolling up his right sleeve and revealing a new tattoo on his forearm of Winston Churchill. It turned out to be a faux tattoo since it was April Fools Day. But Cruz was not kidding when it came to a lack of a plan.
This time, though, Cruz has offered specifics. Well, sorta. It’s a little hard to take his 26-page bill seriously when it is intended to replace the nearly 1,000-page Obamacare law.
So what does the Cruz plan offer? Well, it repeals most, not all of Obamacare, such as the personal mandate. Although in a statement released Tuesday, Cruz made it clear he’s as obsessed as ever that "every last word of Obamacare must be repealed.”
The way Cruz’s plan will work is to allow people to buy health insurance across state lines. I get in theory that could translate into lower premiums given the increased competition. Some health care experts dispute that hypothesis. Others warn of a “race to the bottom” because once one state lowered rates by cutting services offered, other states might start to do the same. But even assuming Cruz’s idea has merit, how can a person who doesn’t have the money to afford even those lower rates without a subsidy secure coverage?
This is especially worrisome for those who now receive subsidies but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. That gap already exists for some and it would likely become worse under Cruz’s plan, callously resulting in millions losing health insurance for themselves and their families.
Even some of Cruz’s fellow Republican recognize this very problem. To remedy this, three GOP senators, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), proposed a plan that provides temporary subsidies so that people in need can “keep the coverage they picked for a transitional period.” As these senators noted in a March 1 op-ed they penned for The Washington Post, “It would be unfair to allow families to lose their coverage, particularly in the middle of the year.”
But Cruz’s plan—unsurprisingly— doesn’t offer that safety net. Why would it? It would in effect be recognizing the benefits of Obamacare and just as importantly, it might piss off some of Cruz’s right-wing fans.
The Cruz plan has no chance of becoming law. But it gives you even more insight into what Cruz means when he says he wants to help people in need. You would think as someone born in Canada he would be a little more compassionate? Perhaps he has just been living in Texas too long.