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The Road to Compromise (Part 4 of 4)

In the summer of 2017, the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship College Student Congress attendees were tasked with finding bipartisan solutions to some of the most complex issues facing the nation – healthcare, foreign intervention, national debt, and transportation. Students first developed policy proposals along partisan lines, and then came together in a series of negotiations during which the partisan plans were merged into a single policy compromise amenable to both groups.

These negotiations among talented college students produced new and creative solutions to major national issues, proving along the way that partisan values need not be abandoned to reach compromise, and that mutually beneficial compromise is in fact achievable.

This spring we will be highlighting a different policy solution developed by our 2017 College Student Congress attendees. It should be noted that the policy solutions presented in this series are mere summaries of the proposals that resulted from hard work by dedicated groups of students who were constrained by both time and resources, and do not fully capture the level of detail and commitment each group invested in their solutions. Our last topic is the national debt and deficit.

 

National Debt and Deficit

At the time of the 2017 College Student Congress, the level of US national debt was at nearly $20 trillion dollars and rising. While both the liberal and conservative groups entered negotiations agreeing that the debt should be reduced to 60% of GDP by 2028, they each had different proposals informed by their partisan beliefs on how to create solutions to lower the national debt.

 

Below are key components that the liberal student group wanted to emphasize during their attempt to develop a policy solution to lower the national debt:

  • Protect vulnerable communities and increase education funding
  • Promote greater healthcare access for all
  • Sustain and increase “safety net” programs
  • Impose higher taxes on the nation’s wealthiest citizens

The conservative student group adopted the following goals in their initial policy proposal for lowering the national debt:

  • Focusing on lowering the debt level to keep interest expense in check
  • Reforming the Affordable Care Act
  • Promoting sustainable entitlement spending
  • Increasing defense spending
  • Minimizing tax increases

Once each group had determined their initial starting points, the students came together to negotiate a bipartisan policy that would meet objectives from each of their partisan proposals. The areas where the students had the greatest levels of divergence and thus the greatest need to compromise were revenues, healthcare and defense.

On revenues, both groups were able to come to an eventual solution that included several initial partisan objectives. The liberal group was able to restore the 2009 estate tax parameters, impose a 5.4% surtax on income above $1 million, enact the Buffet Rule and reduce the mortgage interest deduction. The conservatives earned the reduction of the corporate tax rate to 30%, repealed the excise tax on high cost health insurance plans, did not allow an increase in Medicare premiums for high-income beneficiaries and implemented a sunset clause for the 5.4% surtax and Buffet Rule.

The compromise between the groups on healthcare resulted in an agreement to maintain the individual mandate, block grant Medicaid, and not enact malpractice reform. The groups also came to a compromise on entitlement issues, including repealing the Davis-Bacon Act, raising the retirement age to 70, implementing chained CPI to determine benefits, and developing mechanisms to help those impacted by chained CPI.

Finally, the two groups worked out a defense spending compromise wherein there were increases in veterans benefits, funding for homeland security and international assistance, as well as a reduction of the Navy fleet and sequester repeal.

The groups determined that if their detailed budget were enacted and able to be implemented as envisioned, then the national debt would reach 60% of GDP in 2026, two years earlier than their original target date.

The Road to Compromise (Part 3 of 4)

In the summer of 2017, the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship College Student Congress attendees were tasked with finding bipartisan solutions to some of the most complex issues facing the nation – healthcare, foreign intervention, national debt, and transportation. Students first developed policy proposals along partisan lines, and then came together in a series of negotiations during which the partisan plans were merged into a single policy compromise amenable to both groups.

These negotiations among talented college students produced new and creative solutions to major national issues, proving along the way that partisan values need not be abandoned to reach compromise, and that mutually beneficial compromise is in fact achievable.

This spring we will be highlighting a different policy solution developed by our 2017 College Student Congress attendees. It should be noted that the policy solutions presented in this series are mere summaries of the proposals that resulted from hard work by dedicated groups of students who were constrained by both time and resources, and do not fully capture the level of detail and commitment each group invested in their solutions. Our third topic is healthcare.

Healthcare

Healthcare has become an increasingly partisan topic in American politics, which created for intense negotiations between the conservative and liberal student groups at the Student Congress. Each side entered negotiations with fairly traditional stances on healthcare-related issues, but their compromise produced truly creative proposals that sought to rectify even the most disparate political positions.

 

 

The conservative student group’s initial proposal was centered around encouraging individuals to purchase health insurance by reducing costs through the free market. Some components of their proposal included the following:

  • Repealing the Affordable Care Act.
  • Allowing insurance pooling.
  • Requiring health care providers to post costs.
  • Doubling the cap on the Health Savings Account.
  • Rolling back the age for Medicare incrementally.
  • Improving access to and quality of women’s healthcare.

 

The liberal student group plan focused on policy elements related to pricing transparency, reproductive health, national public healthcare options. Their proposal included the following ideas:

  • Establishing a public option for health insurance on the public market that is rolled into Medicaid and implemented alongside the private marketplace.
  • Creating a mechanism through which new parents and family members of the seriously ill could take time off to tend to important family members.
  • Keep 100% of federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
  • Offering an a la carte option for individual to purchase birth control at insurance rates.
  • Implementing drug price and price change reporting requirements for manufacturers.

 

The two groups were able to come to agreement on several policy points, including deregulating individual pooling, family leave, pharmaceutical ethics and health service transparency, family leave, and issues related to HSA and birth control. This agreement respected several initial partisan preferences within each group, and set the stage for further bipartisan compromise in the areas of a public option, emergency room policy, and women’s health.

In their compromise on the public option and individual mandate, the liberal and conservative groups suspended the individual mandate in the ACA with a sunset clause of ten years, determined that the public option would provide for pre-existing conditions,  and implemented a subsidy for the public option.

On emergency room policy, the groups determined that the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act would be amended to protect hospitals and encourage the purchasing of health insurance. Components of this compromise included provisions that an ER must only treat individuals with medical conditions requiring urgent action, and that an ER maintains the right to deny service to individuals without urgent conditions if an official referral to a FQHC within reasonable distance is made.

To address the policy questions related to women’s health, the females within the conservative and liberal groups created a Women’s Caucus to lead negotiations. It was decided that 100% of federal funding awarded to Planned Parenthood would be reallocated to Federally Qualified Health Centers located in each state, doubling their amount of funding. The $500 million would be phased out over 5 years, decreasing funding to Planned Parenthood by 20% each year. The remaining $500 million would be moved from the Defense budget. The Women’s Caucus determined that this compromise would address the main goal of increasing access to birth control, with Planned Parenthood still able to function from private donations.

While these compromises were not easy, with both sides giving ground on traditional party stances, the students in the healthcare group were able to overcome party lines in the name of addressing the pressing healthcare problems facing the United States.