The easiest part of the Affordable Care Act was supposed to be designing a user-friendly website that prompted millions to sign up for health insurance with just few clicks. To describe the launch as a colossal fiasco is putting it mildly.
While many feel slighted with a “glitchy” website, the Latino community has been utterly dismissed. That’s because if you speak only Spanish, the Administration didn’t even bother to fully rollout an ObamaCare website for you. Yet, something tells me they won’t have any difficulties sending us the penalty notice for not signing up – in Spanish.
It’s not enough to cite the flaws with the [Affordable Care Act] law; conservatives should offer something better, now, while we are still at a crossroads.
- David Laska
Still, while much attention is currently being focused on the mutilation of a website, those of us who mistrust Washington’s growing control and power are most distressed about the damage Obamacare’s full implementation will do to the nation’s healthcare system.
President Obama promised that his health reform plan would lower health costs, expand choice, and improve quality of care. Yet, as the program is unveiled – piece by broken piece – none of these promises are materializing. Americans are losing full-time employment, millions have been dropped from their employer insurance rolls, and many doctors won’t participate.
And worst of all, the care is not affordable. While a Bronze Plan – the cheapest insurance available under the ACA – will cost many families more than they are currently paying, they will have to cover 40 percent of their medical bills out of pocket through deductibles and co-payments — up to as much as $12,700 per year for a family. Consider also that 65 percent of Hispanics are millennials, meaning they will pay much more for a product they don’t need, didn’t ask for and cannot afford.
But it’s not enough to cite the flaws with the law; conservatives should offer something better, now, while we are still at a crossroads. To that end, real reform should build on the best of the current system, and go back to the “American way” of doing things. Medical care must put the customer first, and allow government a limited role.
In replacing the president’s health law, Republicans and Democrats should work together on reforms that focus on three main principles: Empowering the individual consumer, encouraging a competitive marketplace, and providing for the truly needy.
Empower the Individual Consumers
True reform should empower individuals to make their own choices – not limit options and mandate participation. Expanding Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) is a good first step. HSAs provide tax breaks to help people afford medical care, and to empower them to make their own health care choices – instead of leaving governments or employers in charge. They also restore market incentives to control costs, through competition.
Congress should also consider personal tax credits for buying health insurance. Right now employers get a tax break if they offer care to their workers. Why not allow ordinary Americans to take this credit if they choose — so that they can purchase care if they are not satisfied with what their company may offer? Unlike the president’s health care law, this would build on the current system, while creating new options for those who want something different.
Encourage a Competitive Marketplace
Overregulation stifles the market’s ability to provide innovative options, and arbitrary regulation leaves many with unmet demands. For example, right now, people may only buy insurance that meets the mandates set in their state of residence. This can make it extremely expensive for people in states with heavy regulations that protect powerful interest groups. We don’t prevent people from going out-of-state to buy a car, or home appliances, or higher education. Why should insurance be any different?
Tort reform must also be part of health care reform. Lawsuit abuse drives up the cost of health care, and doctors ultimately pass on the cost of frivolous litigation to their patients. Traditional tort standards for medical liability should be strictly enforced. Non-economic damages, such as compensation for pain and suffering should be limited and punitive damages should apply only in criminal proceedings. These reforms would ensure fair compensation for those hurt by doctors without inflating costs.
In theory, health insurance exchanges expand choice and encourage competition. The Affordable Care Act, however, eliminates these positive effects by requiring all plans sold in exchanges to meet the same federal guidelines. Private exchanges allow trade associations, civic groups, and businesses of all sizes to offer their employees and members a wide range of alternatives.
Provide for the Truly Needy
There is a role for government in health care reform, but it should be limited to providing a safety net for the truly needy. On the state-level, high-risk pools for the uninsured should be expanded. It’s important that health care reform help those who are currently unable to afford insurance. One way to do that – without hurting the tens of millions who are happy with their health care – is through the expansion of high-risk pools. Most states have these already. They provide coverage for those who cannot obtain insurance because of their health conditions, subsidizing the cost of policies through a tax on insurance companies or by general tax revenues. This is a better approach than forcing these individuals into the regular market and increasing costs for others.
Lastly, it is essential that reform protects Medicare beneficiaries and improves Medicaid. Right now seniors have few options under Medicare, whose funding has been slashed to pay for the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid is even worse. The program is driving up the federal deficit, and offering extremely limited care with outcomes that are no better than going without insurance. It is shameful that low-income Americans are locked into this failing program.
Ultimately, if we are to be a thriving and healthy society we must still be that country where entrepreneurs compete by constantly improving customer service, charging competitive prices, and innovating in order to achieve the trust and loyalty of their customer base. Putting government regulators in charge leaves too many Americans behind — including those who speak Spanish, and the millions who are losing their policies. We need a better approach.
Daniel Garza is the Executive Director of The LIBRE Initiative and former White House staffer from 2001-2006.