- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hoping to give his presidential campaign a jolt, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker unveiled a plan Tuesday to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a system of refundable tax credits, an overhaul of Medicaid and other reforms, while calling out his own party leaders in Congress for failing to overturn the law.

The 2016 Republican hopeful said GOP leaders who promised to repeal every word of the Affordable Care Act had let voters down. Now, it’s “put up or shut up time.”

“Both chambers of the United States Congress have been controlled since January by Republicans, and yet there’s not a bill on the president’s desk to repeal Obamacare,” he said, pacing a crate-filled stage at a machine parts factory near Minneapolis. “I want to be perfectly clear: Americans want more than just campaign promises. They want results. Actions speak louder than words.”

Under his plan, Mr. Walker would cancel the individual mandate requiring Americans to prove they have health coverage, and would instead provide refundable tax credits based on age to people who don’t have employer-based coverage. Plans could be bought across state lines, allowing consumers to shop for cheaper options that meet their needs.

Those aged 18-34 would get $1,200, while those 50-64 would get up to $3,000 — a contrast with Obamacare, which bases its subsidies on income rather than age.

It also raises limits on tax-free health savings accounts while providing a $1,000 tax credit to anyone who signs up for an HSA — a tax-advantaged fund that conservatives support because they feel it forces patients to spend their health care dollars more wisely.

People who obtain insurance through their jobs would not be affected.

Mr. Walker’s push to distinguish himself on health care comes after an unremarkable debate performance in Cleveland earlier this month, and as the GOP contenders for 2016 are pressed to offer specific solutions to a range of issues, from beating back the Islamic State abroad to reforming health care and immigration.

In a Politico Magazine opinion piece published Monday, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida also laid out a plan that involves refundable tax credits, allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines, and moving Medicaid into a per-capita block grant system.

Mr. Walker boasted he was one of the few GOP candidates to explain how, exactly, he would follow through on passing GOP-favored health reforms, and said his union-busting track record in Madison proves he is serious about upending the status quo. During his speech, he used some form of the phrase “not intimidated” five times.

He also said he would force members of Congress to forfeit the employer subsidy they are given to buy plans on Obamacare’s exchanges.

“A lot of candidates talk about repealing Obamacare. We’ve actually got a plan to make sure Congress acts on our reforms right away, because they’re going to have to live under the same rules that everyone else in America does going forward,” he said.

Democrats accused Mr. Walker of undermining President Obama’s chief domestic achievement, which they said has helped low- and moderate-income Americans.

“16 million Americans have gained health insurance from the Affordable Care Act. We need to protect it — not repeal it,” Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton said in a Twitter message.

Meanwhile, one of Mr. Walker’s GOP rivals, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, said the new plan is “Obamacare lite” because it leaves the federal government in the role of spending more to provide Americans with health coverage.

“In a health care plan that is light on specifics, Governor Walker endorsed the fundamental underpinning of Obamacare — the notion that America needs another entitlement program,” said Mr. Jindal, who unveiled his own replacement plan in early 2014.

Mr. Walker insisted Tuesday his plan is cost-neutral and would be paid for by making Medicaid more efficient and changing how certain “gold-plated” health plans are taxed.

 

Mr. Jindal, upset the Walker camp had been “raising questions” about his plan, challenged the Wisconsin governor over Twitter to a health care debate in Iowa.

 

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