A few Republican presidential candidates – Gov. Bobby Jindal, Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Marco Rubio – have released the details of their healthcare plans.
These candidates recognize that Obamacare isn’t working, and that millions of Americans continue to be dissatisfied with the system. They also recognize, importantly, that the answer is not simply to go back to the status quo before Obamacare.
The 2016 election will be pivotal in determining what American medicine looks like for decades to come. To have an informed discussion about what path to take in the future, Americans need to understand the big problems in our healthcare system, why they really exist, and the options for addressing those problems.
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That’s why the Independent Women’s Forum created a new series of videos called “Straight Talk about Health Care,” which explains the past, present, and potential future of the American healthcare system. Here’s the fundamental message:
The fact is, many of our nation’s healthcare problems predated Obamacare.
Most Americans are satisfied enough with the private insurance provided to them through an employer, but they may not recognize how the employer-centric nature of our health system came to be or how it restricts competition and encourages people to over-insure. It’s also a huge drag on wage growth and employment.
Some Americans learn personally about the downside of this system if they decide to start their own business or if they take a job that doesn’t offer health benefits. They find out that health insurance is more expensive in the individual market because of an unfair tax disadvantage.
Another problem that predated Obamacare and inflated premiums was state-level coverage mandates. These legal requirements dictated that all plans include certain benefits, even if some consumers didn’t want or need them. It’s like some states were forcing people to buy a supreme pizza when all they wanted was pepperoni.
Obamacare represented some big changes in our healthcare system: The government expanded its role in health care and increased spending and regulations. This changed policies, changed premiums, and changed enrollment in the health coverage. There may be some winners; there are surely many losers.
But at its core, our current healthcare payment system is very similar to the system before Obamacare.
The law did nothing to alleviate the tax disadvantage that individual-market customers face. In fact, Obamacare’s employer mandate supports the employer-centric nature of our system.
Furthermore, doubling down on another bad idea, the law creates federal-level benefit mandates (called Essential Health Benefits) on top of what states require.
Our new Obamacare system is much like the old health care system: It’s not competitive. It’s not a market. It’s not patient-centered. It’s not transparent. It’s not affordable. It’s rife with third-party payers and cost-shifting. It’s difficult for people to navigate, especially those on the margins of society.
There’s got to be a better way. And there is.
Obamacare failed to significantly fix the problems in health care because it assumed the wrong premise: that there was too little government intervention in the health sector. In fact, the opposite was true: there was already too much! And that’s why there was (and is!) little price transparency, consumer choice, and competition among insurance plans and health providers.
To restore these things, we could take several steps: We could transition away from an employer-centric health system to one centered on individual choice. Americans could be able to customize their insurance coverage, free from benefit mandates at the state or federal level. Beneficiaries of Medicare and Medicaid could have control over their own healthcare dollars, too. Insurance could be restored to its rightful place as a backstop against catastrophic costs, not a third party to every healthcare transaction. All of these changes would lower costs and maximize individual choice, allowing for the greatest value and innovation in our health sector.
To propose and support the right solutions, Americans need to understand what the real problems were (and are). The problems aren’t all the faults of Obamacare, and we don’t need to continue playing political football with this law. Instead, we need to focus on the future, and fostering a better healthcare system for everyone.
To watch the “Straight Talk about Health Care” series and learn more, visit iwf.org
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