Since the Republican Party took back the House, Senate, and the White House, Democrats have battened down the hatches to keep President Obama’s largest legislative “achievement,” the Affordable Care Act. Since Trump’s inauguration, Democrats and moderate Republicans alike have been successful in stymying the Obamacare repeal effort.
Multiple iterations of the House’s bill, “The American Health Care Act,” died on the House floor before being revived and passed 217-213. The House leadership cheered and celebrated the passage at the Rose Garden of the White House, only to watch hopelessly as repeal repeatedly died in the Senate— despite seven and a half years of promises to repeal Obamacare “lock, stock, and barrel.”
The fatal flaw in the Republican repeal effort started long before John McCain complained about the process, killing any hopes of Graham-Cassidy. It started long before Senator Rand Paul grumbled about previous efforts failing to actually repeal Obamacare. The fatal flaw began long before any legislation was brought to the floor.
Republicans will never win the healthcare fight if they continue to argue like Democrats. Time and time again, Republicans find themselves lost in the Democrat/mainstream media narrative about how many would lose insurance coverage, the evil ‘cuts’ to Medicaid, and the Jimmy Kimmel test, that they completely gave away the debate. Rather than debate on the grounds of health care, Republicans elected to debate on the size of government subsidies and the number of people forced to buy insurance.
Long gone went the Grand Ole Party of conservative principles, concerned with shrinking the size of the Federal Government. In came the new, “Democrats are bad at governing, put us in charge” mantra. Trump’s “I alone can fix it” doctrine during his acceptance speech at the GOP Convention gave big government Republicans the cover they needed to run to the hills from any substantive health care reform. Trump was going to fix the system and run the government better than ever before.
As conservatives, the health care argument should not stem from how many people purchase a financial product, insurance, but by how many Americans can actually afford to see their doctors, pay for their prescriptions, and be protected in the case that they face dramatic health problems. There are various ways to decrease cost through conservative market principles, such as having doctors and hospitals post prices, direct doctor-patient billing, risk pools, medical malpractice reform, promoting competition in the pharmaceutical market, and minimizing the role of insurance back to being a financial product for catastrophic health incidents.
Republicans conceded the debate to Democrats when they conflated propping up the insurance industry through the individual mandate and cost-sharing subsidies with real care for patients. Having insurance should not be confused with having access to affordable healthcare.
The number of insured persons does not matter if individuals can’t afford their routine care and medicine with insurance. Health Insurance should be relegated to catastrophic events, as flood and fire insurance are for homeowners. Individuals should have the choice to purchase the plan of their choosing or to pool together with their local communities, professional trade organizations, or places of business to negotiate better insurance rates and to pick up individuals who may have existing chronic health conditions.
Conservatives need to promote patient-doctor relationships. Rather than a system where doctors are inundated with insurance paperwork and Medicaid reimbursements, doctors should be allowed to bill the patient directly. This slight change could diminish operation costs significantly, while promoting price shopping and competition. A doctor visit could become equivalent to a routine checkup at the mechanic.
Through a system of free-market competition, choices, and community health care, conservatives can have a fighting chance of winning the healthcare debate. Rather than focus on the reform of a financial product, conservatives should focus on the real driver of healthcare costs. Though the healthcare bill has stalled in the Senate, it is important that conservatives remember the roots of the healthcare debate: cost and accessibility.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.