Making Health Care More Affordable without Government Overreach
While staunch supporters are still a little slow to come around to the idea, most have reached the conclusion by now that the Affordable Care Act – AKA Obamacare – isn't everything it was billed to be. While it's made health care more affordable for a few, it's ultimately driven up costs for the rest of the American population.
It's an age-old question that's miffed politicians and lawmakers for decades, but it's worth asking again: is there a way to make health care affordable for the masses without government overreach?
Obamacare: A Failure of Epic Proportions
While we'll have to wait a number of years to understand the full impact of Obamacare, it's not a stretch to call it a total failure. Yes, 20 million people picked up health insurance from 2010 to 2016, but that's about the only positive piece of news to report. The rest of the country has suffered or will suffer as a result of Obamacare's shortcomings in the next few months or years.
For a health insurance policy known as the Affordable Care Act, there's nothing affordable about the program. Even the liberal New York Times has finally come to accept this reality, reporting that "Obamacare's marketplaces and Medicaid expansion make health coverage a good deal for those near the poverty line, but those earning not much more still often struggle to pay health plan premiums, and face deductibles that are much higher than those seen in a typical employer health plan."
Another key promise of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was that individuals would be able to keep their plans and doctors. Obama repeatedly looked Americans in the eyes and told them this. Yet, as predicted by opponents from the very beginning, this hasn't happened. Insurers have been forced to pull out of markets, and many have been unable to access their preferred health care providers with plans they received on the health care marketplace.
Another key premise of Obamacare was that every American would be insured, either through subsidies or by forcing those who could buy it to purchase a plan. However, the Congressional Budget Office projects that by 2023 – more than ten years after implementation – 31 million people will still be uninsured.
Politics aside, Obamacare has been good for a few and a disaster for the rest. Lawmakers have given affordable care to a fraction of the population at the expense of the majority. However you want to look at it, the results have been bleak. They've also served as a reminder that it's challenging, if not impossible, to make health care more affordable with government overreach.
Ideas and Suggestions for Affordable Health Care
While the term "affordable health care" has unfortunately become synonymous with Obamacare and left-wing politics, the reality is that every American – Republican and Democrat alike – wants high-quality medical care that's also affordable to the masses. However, as we've seen over the past five-plus years, government overreach isn't the answer.
In order to repeal and replace Obamacare and ensure that the majority of the population has access to affordable health care, we must find a way to reform the current health care and insurance industries without having politicians overextend their powers.
Here are some suggestions:
- Expand Tax Credits
One of the biggest problems is that tax credits have been limited to only the poorest of the poor. In order to make health care affordable, tax credits need to be expanded to middle-class Americans. The more credits people get, the more likely that they'll be to invest in plans that are both affordable (from a monthly premium perspective) and usable (from a deductible perspective).
- Encourage Alternative Plans and Care
Perhaps the biggest suggestion is to encourage alternative plans and health care. Not only does this reduce the cost of care, but it also gives people the freedom to choose. This results in greater independence and satisfaction. Examples include:
- Telemedicine. With all of the recent advances in technology, there's no excuse for telemedicine not to become a mainstream part of the industry. It's significantly more cost-effective and convenient. It also encourages individuals to seek out care early on, which prevents some chronic health issues and serious diseases. iCliniq is a good example. It's a medical second opinion platform in which users pay a fee and get direct access to licensed doctors and medical experts.
- Health sharing plans. Health sharing plans are also fantastic alternatives. While they act similar to insurance, they aren't insurance at all. Instead, the monthly premiums of all users are put into one big "pot" that is redistributed based on the monthly expenses incurred by users. While health sharing plans do get an exemption under current Obamacare rules, they still aren't granted all the same advantages that traditional insured individuals get. Popular health sharing plans include Liberty Healthshare, Medi-Share, Samaritan Ministries, and Christian Healthcare Ministries.
- More generous HSA rules. Millions of Americans currently use Health Savings Accounts (HSA) to make their out-of-pocket health care expenses more affordable. The IRS could loosen up some of the restrictions and increase the contribution amount to incentivize more people to participate.
- Negotiate Better Provider Reimbursements
When the ACA was drafted, one of the big ideas was that fees would be set for doctors, hospitals, and clinics (in a manner similar to that of Medicare). In fact, the ACA requires insurance companies to follow the 80/20 rule, in which they must spend 80 percent of premiums on health care delivery and the rest on wages and administrative costs.
As Sadie Tuescher wrote in an editorial for the Chicago Tribune last year, "[t]he 80/20 rule is a great idea, but it has a fatal flaw: Insurance companies and providers have figured out that if they just raise the 80 percent, their 20 percent gets bigger too. Leaving the 80/20 rule intact and negotiating provider reimbursements will bring costs down for consumers and require hospital conglomerates to spend our health care dollars wisely."
- Put a Cap on Drug Prices
Finally, we desperately need caps on drug prices in this country. While drug corporations should be able to make healthy profits, there have to be some reasonable price caps (as there are in the oil and gas industry). Currently, they're charging whatever they want and making insurance providers pick up the rest. This cost is ultimately passed down to individuals and throws a monkey wrench into the system.
Is There a Perfect Solution?
Affordable health care may seem like an impossible dream, but if you look at other countries, it's clear there are ways to achieve it on a national scale. The key is to avoid government overreach and encourage autonomy among patients and insurers. When this is done, everything else will fall into place.