Rand Paul’s Obamacare Substitute: Take Two Aspirin and Call Me in the Morning More

As the incoming Trump administration over the weekend reaffirmed its commitment to simultaneously repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky got an early jump in promoting his vision of a suitable – but relatively threadbare – replacement.

During an appearance Sunday on CNN, Paul unveiled the broad outlines of his plan that contains a number of measures favored by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), the nominee to become the next secretary of Health and Human Services. Those include tax credits to help Americans defray the cost of health insurance premiums and increased use of tax-exempt Health Savings Accounts.

But central to Paul’s approach is totally scrapping Obamacare mandates and minimum coverage requirements that the Kentucky lawmaker says discourage younger, healthier Americans from purchasing individual plans. Instead, Paul favors dramatic changes in the system that would foster the sale of cheap, bare-bone health insurance policies.

Currently plans sold in the individual market under Obamacare must include 10 “minimum essential benefits,” such as doctors’ services, inpatient and outpatient hospital care, prescription drug coverage, pregnancy and childbirth and mental health services. Paul would scrap all those requirements and allow people to purchase coverage keyed to their specific needs and income.

“So one of the key reforms we do is we’re going to legalize the sale of inexpensive insurance,” Paul told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “That means getting rid of the Obamacare mandate on what you can buy.”

That approach would also have the effect of lowering the overall quality of health care in the country, but Paul didn’t comment on that. Moreover, it would make it far more difficult for major insurers to offset the cost of providing coverage to older and sicker beneficiaries with substantial premium payments from younger Americans.

Paul said he will also press for authorization for small businesses to band together to form networks to purchase insurance at a relatively low cost. Paul, who worked for years as an eye surgeon, said, “There’s no reason why someone with four employees shouldn’t be able to join with hundreds and hundreds of other businesses that are small to become a large entity to get leverage to bring your prices down.”

He said those negotiations with insurers could also be used to guarantee the…