Wanted! A Republican Positive Health Care Reform Offensive

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August 6, 2019 by Anders Ingemarson

GOP Health PlanA protester dressed as death rallied before a 2018 hearing in a lawsuit against Obamacare in Fort Worth.  Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson for The Texas Tribune

Are Republicans intent on wasting yet another golden opportunity to present Americans with a positive vision for health care reform?

As Democrat presidential hopefuls try to outdo one another in moving the country towards complete nationalized health insurance and health care, conservatives currently appear content to remain on the sidelines hoping that Democrats will self-destruct.

In a separate move, a federal appeals court in New Orleans heard oral arguments on July 9 in Texas v. United States where 20 Republican state AGs, supported by the Department of Justice, argue that the Affordable Care Act (ACA/ObamaCare) individual mandate provision (Section 5000A) is unconstitutional, and that the rest of the law is inseverable from that provision and therefore must also fall. This lawsuit appears to be filed in isolation, without any concerns over what would replace ACA. There is no immediate threat of repeal as the appeals court may take months before issuing a decision. And regardless of the outcome, the case will most likely be appealed and make its way to the U.S Supreme Court.

But the media has had a field day painting Republicans as playing politics with the healthcare of some 30 million Americans, and Democrats arguing for the law’s constitutionality are painted as knights in shining armor.

And the media are not without cause. Arguing for the removal of the ACA, however imperfect, expensive, and possibly unconstitutional, without offering an alternative 10 years into the life of the program is unconscientious. Conservatives would not dream of removing VA Care or Medicare over night without a solid phasing out plan (at least we don’t think so; they desperately evade the subject so it’s hard to tell).

Here at SEPARATE! we are passionate about the moral case for separating state and health insurance and healthcare, but we also realize that it has to be done gradually to avoid leaving Americans who are trapped in the current system high and dry.

We have previously commented on Republicans’ lack of imagination and backbone in presenting a positive health care vision (here, here and here). Rumor has it that the White House is considering a health plan proposal rollout in September, so perhaps someone has been listening. In the meantime, here’s a refresher course in positive health care reform that would give the party of Lincoln the upper hand.

Three major areas need addressing to return control of health insurance and healthcare choices to individual Americans and their families: health insurance, Medicare, and yes, the ACA.

The health insurance market needs two main reforms: (1) regulatory repeal, including but not limited to repealing mandated coverage for preexisting conditions and selling health insurance across state lines, and (2) making health insurance portable by unshackling  Americans from their employers (think homeowner or auto insurance, neither of which is tied to your employer). Together, these reforms will help creating a thriving health insurance marketplace for individuals and families with a wealth of choices for all possible needs, drive down health care costs across the board, and solve the current pre-existing conditions conundrum).

With a thriving, competitive health insurance market in place, the stage is set for a gradual dismantling of Medicare. Give current enrollees and those approaching 65 an incentive to leave the system by offering unlimited tax deductions for healthcare expenses. They may choose to stay in the current system, but we think the thriving marketplace will eventually entice a majority to seek out the plethora of new market-based opportunities. The same goes for people below the eligibility age who will soon realize that the competitive rates and choices of the free market are better than all available Medicare options.

Obamacare will slowly die for the same reasons as Medicare, just faster. Why pay exorbitant insurance rates for an inferior product when the marketplace has so much more to offer?

Other areas need reforming as well, such as medical malpractice insurance and drug regulation, but the above would be a fantastic start.

If it is this easy in practice to unshackle ourselves from the yoke of government healthcare control, why aren’t Republicans seizing the opportunity? Why aren’t we on the path towards separating state and health insurance and healthcare? Why isn’t the President and congressional Republicans challenging the nationalize health insurance/health care proponents?

The issue is one of morality. The statists advocating for more and more government control over health insurance and healthcare try to sell us on the notion that healthcare is a right and that “free” healthcare is a moral good.

They play on our fears to further their cause. They know that one of the scariest prospects we face in life is falling ill without having access to adequate healthcare. If your life or that of your loved ones have ever been in danger due to illness you are sure to remember the traumatic experience. The prospect of it happening again, and not knowing what job or financial situation you will be in at the time, makes it easy to be taken in by their arguments: “Wouldn’t it be better if nobody had to worry about healthcare coverage?” and “Don’t we owe it to the less fortunate among us to have access to the same healthcare as we do?”

They conveniently evade the fact that government healthcare is reducing our options as rationing is the inevitable result of any good or service being “free,” because demand will always outstrip supply: a two weeks wait for an MRI turning into six months; a critical but expensive prescription drug being replaced by a cheaper, less efficient, generic alternative.

And they fail to mention that when providers are being forced to cut their fees and face regulatory burdens, then the supply is vanishing as well. Witness the struggle to find a new competent GP when your family doctor decides to retire 10 years early because he’s sick of spending more time on government mandated administration than on seeing patients, and of his compensation being reduced year after year.

And of course the lyrics of the statists’ siren song omit the unseen effects of regulating your healthcare needs: A life-saving drug or medical device that doesn’t get developed because the prospects of government price control are keeping investors away; a brilliant mind lost to medicine, instead choosing a career in a less regulated field because she wants to follow her own mind without being shackled by bureaucrats.

We are no admirers of Franklin D. Roosevelt, but his “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” applies to our current healthcare situation.

Republicans must address all of the above as part of presenting Americans with a positive health care vision. They have to realize that the fear of being left without healthcare coverage can only be addressed by separating state and healthcare. A vibrant free health care market will provide higher quality and have less expensive products and services to choose from. They need to make it abundantly clear that when it comes to health care Americans should only fear placing their lives in the hands of the statists who want to control our every healthcare choice.

With the source of the fears identified, they can confidently begin advocating for getting the government out of healthcare on moral grounds. No matter how urgent the need, no matter how strained the finances, no matter how uncertain the future, they should argue that using the voting booth to force our neighbors to pay for our healthcare is immoral. They need to claim the moral high ground, taking the position that healthcare is not a right.

Explain that we have the moral rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which means the rights to act and to keep the gains of our actions, while respecting that our neighbor has the same rights; neither his nor our healthcare needs constitute a moral claim on the other.

As Americans get attuned to the message and stop listening to the siren song of immoral government controlled healthcare in favor of moral free market solutions, we will find that exploring health care options will be no different from shopping for a new cellphone: we will have a hard time keeping up with all the new features and marvel at how much more we get for our money with every passing year. And we will feel secure in the knowledge that whatever happens, the best in healthcare will be waiting for us and our loved ones when we need it.

With all the marketeers and spin doctors at their disposal, and with morality on their side, offering a positive healthcare vision should be a Republican home run.

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