School Vouchers and the ObamaCare Replacement


Conservatives love school vouchers. They have praised the approval of Betsy DeVos as the new Secretary of Education because she is a strong advocate for school choice, which frequently calls for the use of school vouchers. Then why don’t they like the tax credits in the American Health Care Act (AHCA)?

Full disclosure; I consider myself a conservative Republican. That makes it especially hard for me to understand the concerns of those Republicans in Congress who object to the AHCA because of its tax credits. Here’s why:

The AHCA calls for refundable tax credits for all those Americans who don’t get their healthcare insurance through their employer or receive Medicare, Medicaid, or other government-provided insurance such as Tricare (military families) or the insurance provided to every member of Congress, the White House and their families. That leaves 7% of Americans who have to purchase their own insurance. The AHCA calls for means and age testing for these credits that phase out after incomes for individuals of $75,000 and for couples at $150,000.

Ryan Ellis, writing in Forbes, explains that school vouchers are free money for people who didn’t earn it. Those receiving the refundable tax credits are also people receiving free money who didn’t earn it. So both school vouchers and health tax credits are straight government spending. Conservatives do not oppose school vouchers based on government spending, especially if they are offset by spending cuts. These health tax credits are offset by cuts in ObamaCare spending.

School vouchers are means tested. Wealthier families are not eligible for school vouchers. Wealthier families are also not eligible for health tax credits.

School vouchers are not directly granted. They go to the school, not the child and follow the child from school to school. In the same way, health tax credits go to the insurance company and follow the patient from insurance company to insurance company.

School vouchers offset tuition on a month-to-month basis. The health tax credits offset insurance premiums on a month-to-month basis.

School vouchers move the working poor from failing government schools to better private schools. Health tax credits move the poor from failing government insurance (Medicaid or ObamaCare exchanges) to quality private health insurance.

Conservatives have been for school vouchers for decades. Conservatives have advocated school vouchers since Milton Friedman. Conservatives have supported health tax credits for individuals since the 1990s.

One of the great champions of school vouchers in the Senate is Rand Paul. As one of the leaders of the conservative criticism of the AHCA, Senator Paul is being hypocritical. Those Republicans who supported school vouchers and school choice should also be in favor of the AHCA refundable tax credits.

Lastly, objecting to a program that levels the tax code playing field for the 7% of Americans who don’t receive tax exempt healthcare insurance or government provided insurance is unfair and un-American. More importantly, it is political suicide. There is zero chance of replacing ObamaCare with a better system if you can’t get any Democrats to support the bill. No Democrat is going to vote for a bill that removes all of the government support of low-income Americans. The Republican conservatives need to compromise with the moderates if there is to be any chance of gaining some Democrats to cross party lines for the good of the country.

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