DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And on this morning after the Democratic presidential debate, let's turn to a policy proposal from one high-profile Republican candidate. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush released his health care plan yesterday. It would repeal Obamacare. That is something Republicans have tried aggressively to do in Congress. NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben is in the studio to talk about this. Danielle, good morning.
DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Hi.
GREENE: OK, so what are the basics of the Bush plan here?
KURTZLEBEN: So one thing, like you said, is that it repeals Obamacare. So it gets rid of the individual mandate, so you aren't required to have health coverage. It gets rid of employer mandates. And it gets rid of a lot of the requirements of what coverage looks like. A lot of the things that Obamacare said your health care plan should cover, this gets rid of a lot of those and says you can have a lot more very, very bare-bones health care plans.
GREENE: OK, so Republicans have been complaining about those mandates for a long time, those mandates the Obama administration says helped cover 17 million Americans who were not covered before Obamacare. What would happen to them under this plan?
KURTZLEBEN: We don't know exactly what will happen to them. Yes, Jeb Bush does say he will help people transition off of Obamacare. But there aren't the same requirements for people to get coverage. There aren't the same requirements for employers to provide coverage. So it's hard to see the same number of people having coverage under this plan as there are under Obamacare. Now, this plan does provide incentives. There are tax credits to try to help people get coverage, and if your employer doesn't provide you with health care, your employer can help you buy health care on the individual market. So yes, it will encourage some people in some ways to get coverage, but it also creates a lot of loopholes for you to not get coverage.
GREENE: Well, of course, the spending has to be a big part of this, right? I mean, Republicans have been saying that health care spending in this country is completely out of control and they've been working very hard to figure out ways to rein it in. Is that part of what's happening with this plan?
KURTZLEBEN: Yes, and health care spending, health care costs in the U.S. really are rising fast. And Jeb Bush's plan really is designed to address that. And I talked to a lot of health care experts on this yesterday. And what they all said is, yeah, on its face it looks like this would cut health care spending in a lot of ways. It could cut the amount that the federal government spends on health care for low-income people. It wouldn't guarantee pre-existing condition coverage, which could cut some costs. And when you institute a lot of high deductible plans, which this looks like it would, you also cut back on some health care usage. Now, in terms of the long-term effects - I mean, the long-term economic effects of any major policy overhaul like this are really hard to foresee.
GREENE: You just don't know until years go by.
GREENE: And just briefly, what about the timing here? Why does Bush put this proposal out right now during the Republican primary season?
KURTZLEBEN: First of all, it establishes his conservative bona fides, right? You know, of course it repeals Obamacare - something that every conservative seems to want to do. And it hits all of the conservative high notes - reduced regulation, more power to the states. And not only that, but it could help him differentiate himself. Jeb Bush is really trying to establish himself as the policy wonk in the Republican field, and this could help him make a case for that.
GREENE: All right, NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben. Thanks a lot, Danielle.
KURTZLEBEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.