Eleven years ago next Tuesday, Obamacare was signed into law, beginning a decade of distortions to our health sector that doubled premiums, caused millions of people to lose their policies and doctors, and dramatically reduced choices for Americans purchasing health insurance in the individual market.
House Democrats are celebrating with a hearing on Tuesday, offering nearly 20 new bills to “build on Obamacare”—President Biden’s goal. But it’s really an effort to advance their goal of a government-run health sector and patch the ACA’s many problems by spending even more taxpayer money.
Republicans have a different idea.
The chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), wrote an important op-ed for The Daily Signal today saying, “The Republican Party must be the party of health care. Over the next two years, conservatives can’t shy away from an issue that American voters’ consistently rate as one of their top priorities.”
Many people who understand the importance of health care in the political debate are frustrated and demoralized, but he insists we must not give up.
“We must coalesce around a set of clearly defined and articulatable policies, we must develop a plan to make those policies law, and we must convince the public that those policies deserve to be law. Until and unless conservatives do this, our nation will continue its quickening descent toward full-scale socialized medicine,” Chairman Banks wrote in “After 11 Years of Obamacare, Republicans Need to Become the Party of Health Care.”
“Republicans spent years railing against Obamacare, which was easy, because Obamacare is flawed and for years was very unpopular. While this general opposition superficially bound us together, real policy divisions within our ranks were ignored.”
He reflected on Democrats’ failure with Clintoncare in the 1990s. But they learned their lessons and “spent the next 15 years building consensus and refining and developing the political tools needed to enact Obamacare.”
The Health Policy Consensus Group has been working hard to provide the platform for a new generation of health reform with our Health Care Choices 20/20 plan. And the Republican Study Committee also has done “yeoman’s work to build a health care policy playbook that returns health care decision-making to communities and families.”
“We can’t simply run against a public option or ‘Medicare for All,’” Chairman Banks writes. “Over the next four years, we must turn the idea of a personalized, community-centered health care system—where patients and families are priorities, and health care freedom is sacred—into a legislative force.”
And we are ready as well with our broad Consensus Group coalition of more than 200 health policy experts, physicians, and other health professionals from around the country.
Doug Badger, Brian Blase and I wrote a paper providing a deep analysis of the Affordable Care Act on the 10th year anniversary, “Affordable Care Act at Ten: Huge Expansion of Welfare and Injury to Individual Insurance Market.”
Changes to the ACA in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan only deepen the distortions, as Brian and Doug explain in their recent writings: Brian’s “Expanded ACA Subsidies Exacerbate Health Inflation and Income Inequality,” summarized here and a New York Post piece here. And Doug Badger wrote op-eds here and here.
Brian takes on one of the Democrats’ key attacks on affordable health plans in an op-ed today in The Hill, “Biden must keep his healthcare promises.” House Democrats’ hearing on Tuesday will focus on Trump administration actions to expanded options for health coverage, including short-term plans used by more than three million people in 2019.
“Restricting private options would be inconsistent with assurances from President Biden, who promised Americans during the campaign that ‘If you have private insurance, you can keep it,’” Brian writes.
“After millions of people lost their coverage because the Affordable Care Act made their insurance illegal, PolitFact labeled President Obama’s assurance that people could keep their plans as 2013’s ‘Lie of the Year.’” President Biden risks repeating that embarrassment if he proceeds.
“These policies, dubbed short-term plans, are not subject to the ACA’s mandates, and they help people who need more affordable and flexible coverage, such as middle-income families that lack employer coverage or workers in the gig economy,” he writes.
“Some Democrats call these ‘junk plans.’ They aren’t. In addition to covering hospitalization, emergency care and doctors’ visits, many short-term plans also cover prescription drugs and mental health services. These plans pay providers better than ACA plans, so short-term plan enrollees have access to far more doctors and hospitals.”
So the immediate task in setting a new agenda for health policy is protecting the affordable, consumer-friendly options created over the last four years and building on that progress for the future.