On Tuesday, I made the case that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was right to oppose the latest Republican Obamacare repeal effort, known as Graham-Cassidy, in the hope that a more free-market approach could emerge.
Just one day later, it did.
President Trump announced Wednesday that he planned to sign a “very major” executive order that would allow people to purchase in insurance across state lines — a free-market proposal Republicans have yearned for long before Obamacare existed and Paul, in particular, has pushed as part of his Association Health Plan proposal. Paul outlined these ideas in January in a Rare op-ed and has promoted them throughout the Obamacare repeal debate.
Paul has been talking to Trump about allowing health care to be sold across state lines and expected the president to move forward on it soon, the senator said earlier Wednesday. And then Trump did.
Reports portrayed the president’s decision as a political win for the senator. “U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky appears to have notched a victory in the health care debate in Washington,” declared Kentucky’s WKU/NPR.
It may very well be a political win for Paul. But if Graham-Cassidy had passed, would Paul’s idea had ever seen the light of day?
If Republicans finally “repealed” Obamacare (remember Graham-Cassidy retained the trillion in spending that was the heart of the Affordable Car Act and Paul’s main reason for opposing), and were congratulating themselves for getting something done, would anyone on Capitol Hill have any political incentive to do anything else with health care?
Of course not. They would be too busy patting themselves on the back.
More importantly, do you think Donald Trump — basking in the glory of his first major legislative achievement and major campaign promise kept — would even be considering Paul’s free market idea?
It’s possible, but knowing what we know about how both politics and Trump work, it’s not likely.
Trump is signing this executive order precisely because Graham-Cassidy failed and he still wants to get something done on health care. The last thing failed, so on to the next thing.
The difference this time is that Trump’s executive order would inject free market solutions into the enduring health care fiasco, which until recently, was always the primary problem with the system for most Republicans.
The Association Health Plan operates under “the same principle as Wal-Mart,” Paul told WKU Public Radio in August. “Wal-Mart can buy in such large bulk that you can get milk for a very reasonable price often just barely above their cost, and they do it because they have such large buying power.”
Many conservative Republicans not named Paul (or Cruz) are still upset Graham-Cassidy failed. But Trump’s move is something far better than a mere silver lining.