ELLIOT: Did Deborah Ross cause Richard Burr to scrap Medicare plan?

Eamon Queeney—North State Journal
Sen. Richard Burr takes questions from reporters after speaking in support of a brand new prescription medication disposal receptacle at a Walgreens pharmacy Aug. 2in New Bern.

Deborah Ross and her campaign allies are hitting North Carolina’s airwaves (and the news media’s inboxes) hard about Sen. Richard Burr’s Senior’s Choice Act, a bill that Burr and now-retired senator and Oklahoma Republican, Dr. Tom Coburn, introduced in 2012. At the time, the senators said it was a way to “save Medicare” for current and future enrollees.Ross, who is challenging Burr for his Senate seat, is trumpeting the fact that Burr’s office says he is no longer seeking a vote on the plan. (As far as I can tell, Burr hasn’t “dropped” his plan or pulled a “full 180.” He just isn’t re-introducing a four-year-old bill.)On the surface, this seems like fairly normal election-year rhetoric: Republican says an entitlement is unsustainable and that prices can be lowered and consumers given choice by using public money in conjunction with market forcesDemocrat says that amounts to “privatization” and that the Republican is on the take from big business, etc.An elderly actress in a wheelchair gets pushed off a cliff somewhere near HollywoodBut if that’s true, why hasn’t Burr just responded with the traditional Republican response, e.g.: Government-loving liberals, such as my opponent, know Medicare is in trouble, but they’re more interested in winning elections than solving problems. Scaring seniors won’t help. Solutions like mine will. It’s a well-paved rhetorical road by now, but Burr didn’t take it. Why?Perhaps the primary reason is that the bill was introduced way back in 2012. Remember 2012? U.S. economic growth crawled at under 2.5 percent. A guy named LeBron James led his team to the NBA Championship. Syria was in turmoil.What? All those things are still true in 2016? Well, here’s something that has changed since 2012: Obamacare’s mandates, along with its intended and unintended consequences, have drastically changed the private insurance market. In 2012, getting to buy a plan on the open market sounded like a good thing. But since Obamacare went into effect in 2013, voters have seen plan premiums for private insurance skyrocket, the plans themselves get worse and worse, the insurance companies either abandon the market or have massive backlogs and customer service problems — and they know the future looks even worse. (Obamacare’s price-inflating mandates do have an upside, of course. A woman in her 80s can take great comfort in the knowledge that both she and her 61-year-old son are covered for maternity care.) Selling the private market as a good alternative is no longer tenable — for Burr or any politician. That’s not because Burr’s plan was bad. It’s because private plans aren’t really private anymore. Extreme regulation has made them effectively government plans that retained the private insurance wrapper to preserve the private insurers as political whipping-boys for the left. ► More people are covered by insurance? Yay — Obamacare is working! ► Premiums have gone up 75 percent in six years and all you can afford is a catastrophic plan? Boo — those evil insurance companies are to blame!There are still solutions for health care, and the only ones that make any sense involve scrapping Obamacare as a first step. That’s why when Burr’s office was asked about the Burr-Coburn bill, an official said “the biggest threat to Medicare is Obamacare.” Burr, then, has changed priorities based on changing circumstances. But those changing circumstances aren’t the election, and they aren’t his opponent’s ads. The circumstances are, quite simply, what Obamacare has done to health care in America.