State of Texas: Cruz health care proposal raises new concerns

Ted Cruz (KXAN Photo)
Ted Cruz (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – While the fight over health care is stalled in Washington, a Senator from Texas could hold the key to making a deal. Senator Ted Cruz toured the state to promote his amendment to the Republican health care bill that was introduced just days before the July 4th recess.

Senator Cruz’s opposition to the Republican plan helped stall plans for a quick vote on the bill. Cruz says he’s against the bill because it does not do enough to cut costs.  An amendment he authored would require each insurance company to offer at least one plan that includes all the benefits currently covered by the Affordable Care Act, but would also allow companies to offer other lower-cost plans that don’t cover everything.

The less comprehensive plans are currently illegal under the ACA, also known as Obamacare. Cruz says the cheaper plans are for younger, healthy people who won’t necessarily want all of the coverage Obamacare mandates. “The people whose premiums are getting jacked up are 28-year-olds just starting their careers, maybe making 30 thousand dollars a year,” Senator Cruz explained. “They’re seeing their premiums sometimes doubled or tripled where it’s crushing them. That’s not fair.”

The Center for Public Policy Priorities says the amendment would create an unsustainable, “de facto high risk pool” for sick people buying to more comprehensive plans. “We know that premiums skyrocket when the only people who buy a certain kind of insurance are really sick,” said CPPP Policy Analyst Stacey Pogue. “The problem with doing that in this bill is if you’re low enough income and you get a subsidy, you get some protection. But if you don’t, if you’re an individual who earns more than $42-thousand dollars a year, there’s no help in the Senate bill for you.”

The potential for people in need losing health coverage led some citizens to confront Cruz at his town hall meetings in Texas. “He’s gotten a little pushback from some of the audience members,” said Patrick Svitek, a Texas Tribune reporter who covered the meetings. “He’s gotten into some spirited, I would say sometimes testy exchanges with audience members who clearly disagree with the overall plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

Senator Cruz’s moves on health care could bolster his 2018 reelection campaign, and help him overcome high negative ratings in polls. “The political stakes for him are definitely very high,” Svitek said, noting that Cruz campaigned on a promise that he would basically obliterate Obamacare. So, opposing the current GOP plan could come at a cost for Cruz. “If this gets to a vote in the Senate and he ultimately is a no vote, especially if he is opposite the President on a health care plan and votes against a plan that the President wants people to vote yes on. I think there could be consequences in Texas politics for that.”

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