You have probably seen news stories about the Republican efforts to repeal President Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare. The law has been controversial and has had a lukewarm reception among the American people. The Republican Party ran on “repealing and replacing Obamacare” but they haven’t been too specific on what replacing means. But if we are going to get serious about replacing Obamacare, there is only one way to go — single-payer health care.
Mitch McConnell made a statement recently about working with Democrats to help craft a replacement. This may come across as cynical, but I think that is because they do not have any ideas. The ACA was the Democrats’ idea to fix the health care system. In 1993, the Clinton Administration was looking to reform the health care system and there was a Republican proposal that had many aspects that may sound familiar. The Health Equity and Access Reform Act (HEART) had an individual mandate to purchase insurance, purchasing pools and subsidized insurance plans and a ban on denying people with pre-existing conditions. These are all aspects of the ACA. Additionally, the Republican Plan did not include Medicaid expansion and involved tort reform in cases of wrongful harm of one person to another.
Obamacare is not perfect. Premiums are still rising, health care costs are high and many people are still uninsured. Several studies conducted by the Congressional Budget Office and the Brookings Institute suggest that premiums, although rising, are lower than projected due to the law. Republicans keep talking about a better health care system with lower premiums and deductibles, but how do they plan on doing this? They are not giving answers, but President Trump has stated in the past that he likes single-payer health care.
Single-payer solves the biggest burden of the health care system — cost control. This system exists in Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, France, Italy, New Zealand and countless other countries. These countries pay significantly less than America does and they get better health results. People go to private doctors and the government covers the costs of health care. Everyone is covered in these countries.
We actually have a form of single-payer health care in the United States — Medicare. In the U.S., people have gone without insurance and still received health care but didn’t pay for the treatments. This pushed the burden of the cost throughout the system, causing premiums to rise to unaffordable levels. In addition to this, there is a lack of emphasis on preventative medicine. This causes people to avoid going to the doctor early and taking care of issues before they get worse and more expensive to treat. This also causes cost to rise.
When the government steps in, it can leverage its economic power over the health care system. It controls the costs by insuring everyone and making it easier for people to get treated sooner. In addition to treatment, pharmaceutical drugs become cheaper. The government bargains with the prescription drug companies and can attain cheaper drugs. That is why Canadians pay hundreds of dollars less than Americans do.
When Obamacare was being pushed through Congress, it was described as “socialism.” This couldn’t be further from the case. Sure, there was expansion of government programs, but the important part of the bill was the mandate to make Americans purchase private health care. This is the epitome of crony capitalism. We have to purchase something from a company or be fined. The truth is that socialist policies have existed in America for decades. Remember Medicare? These policies can help businesses. Instead of being forced to buy insurance for your employees, you may get a payroll tax increase. It takes the burden of health care off employers. It is perfectly applicable in the mixed-market economy of the United States.
Single-payer will make health care more affordable. It will streamline the health care system and make us healthier. The American people will finally receive the help they need. The evidence of success of this health care system is all over the world. Republicans need to realize this is the only answer to fixing Obamacare. The president has supported it in the past. Perhaps now it is the time for true reform.