This post has been updated.
BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — GOP presidential hopeful Scott Walker has long said he wants to repeal President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act, but on Tuesday morning he detailed how he would replace the law.
Walker’s health care plan calls for lowering the cost of health insurance by reducing regulation of the industry, providing tax credits to offset the cost of private insurance plans and allowing people to shop for plans across state lines. He also wants to restructure Medicaid, the government-provided health insurance for the poor and disabled.
Walker explained his “Day One Patient Freedom Plan” on Tuesday morning during a speech at Cass Screw Machine Products, a machine parts manufacturer in the Minneapolis suburbs that provides its employees with health insurance options. Walker’s proposal does not provide estimates for how many people would be covered or how much money the change would cost, although Walker is confident that enough money would be saved that he could provide a tax cut. Proponents of the Affordable Care Act have pointed out that simply getting rid of this law would kick 19 million people off their insurance plan in the first year.
This is Walker’s first policy position paper, and as he slips in early polls, it was an opportunity for him to rail against not only the Democratic president but also Republicans in Washington who have yet to repeal Obamacare themselves, even though they have majorities in both chambers. Many of Walker’s GOP opponents are U.S. senators or governors who have expanded Medicaid in their states, which Walker has refused to do in Wisconsin.
“I’m willing to stand up against anyone — including members of my own party,” Walker said in his speech. “I’m willing to stand up against anyone to get the job done. We’re not intimidated.”
Walker’s proposal is 15 pages long, although five of those pages contain only stylized logos and three pages are devoted to tearing apart Obamacare: “ObamaCare made an already broken system worse. It was written by lawmakers who believe the federal government always knows best…The list of ObamaCare failures is long.”
In the seven pages devoted to explaining what he would do differently, Walker lays out a five-step process: “1) Repeal ObamaCare in its entirety. 2) Ensure affordable and accessible health insurance for everyone. 3) Make health care more efficient, effective and accountable by empowering the states. 4) Increase quality and choice through innovation. 5) Provide financial stability for families and taxpayers.”
When it comes to repealing Obamacare, something that Republicans in Washington have been trying to do for years, Walker says only that “ObamaCare must be repealed immediately.”
On ensuring affordable and accessibly health care for all, Walker says he would lower insurance premiums by as much as 25 percent by getting “rid of ObamaCare’s red tape that is driving up the costs of these plans” and encouraging more competition between insurance companies and providers. For those who do not receive health insurance through their employer, Walker would provide refundable tax credits to those who purchase their own insurance. The tax credits would be determined by age, not income, starting at a $900 credit for those under the age of 17 and maxing out at $3,000 for those between the ages of 50 and 64. These tax credits would replace the subsidies that the Affordable Care Act provides to low-income individuals. Those who sign up for a health savings account through their insurance provider would receive a $1,000 tax credit, and Walker would increase the amount of money people can deposit tax-free into those accounts.
Walker would also allow people to shop for plans across state lines. Even with these changes, Walker said, people would not lack medical treatment because of preexisting conditions or a new medical condition. States could help these individuals by starting their own programs for high-risk patients.
For the third step — making health care more efficient, effective and accountable — Walker says he would allow states to set their own rules in allowing 20-something children to stay on their parents’ plans and on other issues. Walker also calls for a dramatic restructuring of Medicaid, which he says “is not working.” Funding for health insurance for low-income families would be capped. Funding for acute care for those with disabilities and low-income seniors would mostly continue, although funding for long-term care would be capped.
To increase options and quality, Walker would encourage wellness programs and push lawsuit reform because “our current legal system has become a lottery, giving outsize awards to a very few, while failing to punish legitimate wrongdoing and compensate people for harm.”
On Monday night, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) outlined his own approach to replacing Obamacare in an opinion piece. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal released a plan last year.