The GOP’s disgraceful retreat on Obamacare

Health care doesn’t have to be this way.

Branco cartoon obamacare repeal failure
A.F. Branco | comicallyincorrect.com

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Did Republicans really need to travel to a West Virginia retreat — in a state where Trump carried every single county — to retreat from their campaign promises? They could have stayed in D.C. to blunt the momentum of Trump’s well-received SOTU address last week, the success of the tax cuts, and the auspicious economic news — because that’s just business as usual.

The president gave Republicans a campaign slogan that could get them through the midterm elections: “Americans are dreamers too.” Yet they won’t stop talking about amnesty for illegals and have now committed to blocking any amnesty for Americans … from Obamacare. Worse, because of their broken promises on both issues, taxpayers who are forced to pay $25,000 a year for basic medical insurance in order to fund Obama freebies will soon be on the hook to fund Obamacare for overwhelmingly low-income illegal aliens.

Not that most Republicans ever planned on repealing Obamacare in the first place, but at the retreat, Republicans overtly agreed to scuttle any attempt to try again to repeal the odious law. Worse, more House Republicans are now publicly supporting the Senate idea of bailing out Obamacare and its wealthy beneficiaries in the insurance cartel, who are flush with record earnings. Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wa., the fourth-ranking House Republican, and Greg Walden, R-Ore., the chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over health care, have come out in favor of a two-year bailout plan.

Even worse still, it appears that Republicans plan to scuttle budget reconciliation this year. This means that they will purposely avoid using the one tool they have, absent reform of the filibuster, to pass anything good, much less health care reform.

This retreat comes on the heels of Trump’s advisors glaringly omitting mention of Obamacare repeal or even innovative health care reforms from his State of the Union address.

What about the insane $2,000-$3,000 monthly premiums non-subsidized Americans must pay as a result of the Obamacare regulations and monopoly subsidies granted to insurance companies to gouge those who want to pay their own way?

What about the doctors who must suffer from the endless paperwork?

What about the ever-narrowing networks?

What about the destruction of private practice at the hands of the massive Medicaid expansion payout formulas that have now given large health care administrators and hospital conglomerates an unfair monopoly — a monopoly the free market would never have given them?

What about the Medicaid expansion fueling the opioid crisis that Republicans are now prepared to throw money at without looking at the cause? According to a new report from the Senate Homeland Security and Government Accountability Committee, “Medicaid has contributed to the nation’s opioid epidemic by establishing a series of incentives that make it enormously profitable to abuse and sell dangerous drugs.” The report found that “Drug overdose deaths per one million people are rising nearly twice as fast in expansion states as non-expansion states, while opioid-related hospital stays paid for by Medicaid massively spiked after expansion.”

But let’s blithely put 70 million people on Medicaid at a cost of over $550 billion and ask no questions about what it is doing to the delivery of health care for all 325 million people. If you are a non-illegal alien U.S. citizen who doesn’t want a handout, just a fair chance in a free market, you don’t exist — to either party.

A Republican Party that actually understood health care and was committed to its campaign promises would seize the opportunity to promote a very compelling narrative for consumer-driven health care where insurance cartels, health care administrator conglomerates, and government don’t get between the patients and their doctors.

The insurance cartel is prospering now not only because of their government-made monopoly over health care but also because of the tax cuts. Anthem announced it would contribute another $1,000 to the 401(k) retirement accounts of its 58,000 employees. Cigna announced it would raise its minimum wage to $16 and contribute an extra one percent to employee retirement accounts. Humana announced a similar plan. United Health, the largest cartel insurer, saw its earnings double in the final quarter of last year and is upping its forecast for this year, thanks to the corporate tax cuts.

Now would be the perfect time for Trump to use messaging similar to the Heritage Foundation’s slogan of “opportunity for all, favoritism for none.” Insurance companies are prospering under the universal corporate tax cuts, just like every other company. There is no need for them to get an extra bailout on top of the many other tendentious favors they get through the tax code, regulatory code, and complete monopoly over more than 60 percent of health care through control of Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare payouts from the government.

Over and beyond repealing the Obamacare subsidies, Medicaid expansion, and regulations, the Freedom Caucus should develop an agenda for the following:

  • Equalize tax treatment of health-sharing ministries, concierge medicine, and other alternatives to traditional insurance by allowing HSAs, self-employed tax deduction, and employer health care exclusion to be used for non-cartel health care costs.
  • End the practice of Medicaid paying higher payouts to large hospitals through “facility fees” over private practice. This market distortion has destroyed private practice health care delivery and is responsible for the unnatural monopoly of a few larger health care conglomerates. It stifles consumer choice and innovation.
  • Demand price transparency by prohibiting any insurance contracts that prevent providers from offering discounts to self-pay patients. Repeal the HMO Act and expose managed care insurers to antitrust laws like any other industry, especially because most of their success comes from government intervention The core reason why there is no price transparency and as such, no consumer-driven market in health care, is because the insurance industry uses its monopoly on taxpayer-funded programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and employer-sponsored plans to shake down providers with contracts that prevent them from offering competitive pricing. This is not a free market; it’s socialism.
  • Eliminate the prohibition on physician-owned hospitals, which has given the large health care administrators a monopoly on medicine and has hurt the sustainability of rural hospitals.

Our political class suffers from a crisis of imagination on health care because they can’t think outside the insurance/hospital cartel run by government as public utilities. Now, Republicans are agreeing to continue even more health care programs lining the pockets of the cartel and are including them in the continuing resolution.  And unless we solve the health care problem in America, we will never solve the debt crisis. Then again, nobody in Washington cares about that, either.


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Author: Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.