Virtually all of the news coverage about the health care positions of newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson have focused on his evangelical advocacy for pro-life, pro-family, and religious liberty principles.
Those are very important but not the whole story. Speaker Johnson served as the chair of the Republican Study Committee, the largest Republican caucus in the House, where he showed his stripes as a policy wonk who is not afraid to tackle health policy.
He chaired the RSC for two years, starting in 2019 when Republicans were in the minority. The Health Care Task Force, under his leadership, developed policy guidelines that set the stage for many of the health reform bills that are making their way through the House this year.
Chairing the RSC is good training for the speakership because it means getting well over 100 very opinionated members with divergent ideas to agree on a single package of policy recommendations.
The 57-page “Framework for Personalized, Affordable Care” developed under Mr. Johnson’s tenure focused on policies to “protect vulnerable Americans – including those with pre-existing conditions, chronic illness, and serious health issues – while reducing premiums, deductibles, and overall health care costs.”
The Health Policy Consensus Group also provided input to the RSC’s Health Care Task Force, and many if not most of the policy initiatives in the RSC’s framework also are in our group’s Health Care Choices plan.
A few examples:
- Loosen federal shackles so states can develop creative risk-sharing models that target better care to the most vulnerable, especially poor pregnant women, children, the elderly, and the disabled
- Redirect existing resources and give states more flexibility to reform their individual health insurance markets to provide better coverage options while lowering health insurance costs and expanding coverage
- Expand health insurance portability with stronger coverage protections
- Expand and improve Health Savings Accounts
- Allow consumers to share in savings if they choose lower cost care
- Expand access to innovative care arrangements, including direct primary care, health sharing ministries, association health plans, telemedicine, and short-term plans
- Provide incentives for states to end anti-competitive practices such as certificate of need laws that drive up prices and reduce consumer choices.
And the list goes on.
The new speaker is facing many challenges, including a Nov.17 government funding deadline, but his past work on health policy gives us renewed hope for action to come on an issue, especially health costs, that will be a top concern of voters in 2024.