After All These Years, Republicans Still Need a Health Plan

Costs are still skyrocketing, ObamaCare repeal failed, and the GOP can't agree on a strategy.

Brian Mark Weber · Oct. 12, 2018

After taking office in 1993, one of Bill Clinton’s main initiatives — led by Hillary Clinton — was “guaranteeing” health care for every American. The result was “HillaryCare,” a behemoth bill that would have put the government in control of doctors and hospitals, but was defeated by opposition from a range of health care, business, and political groups. The famous “Harry and Louise” commercials, portraying a middle-class American couple struggling to get their minds around the plan, were inspired by the Clintons’ power grab.

When it failed, Republicans had a prime opportunity to take charge and reframe the issue in a way that Americans could understand and support. In classic Republican fashion, however, they surrendered the issue to Democrats, who rebranded and marketed government health care under Barack Obama 17 years later.

Ever since ObamaCare became law, Republicans have been promising to repeal and replace it. But while President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans have chipped away at the law, the full-repeal effort failed spectacularly. In any case, health care in this country keeps getting more complex and more expensive. Poor Harry and Louise.

It’s true that Trump is out this week touting an average drop in ObamaCare premiums for next year. But health care and health insurance are vastly more expensive than pre-ObamaCare.

Sarah Kliff writes at Vox, “Over the past decade, the size of our insurance deductibles have skyrocketed. Deductibles have grown by 212 percent since 2008 — eight times faster than wage growth, and 12 times faster than inflation.” Kliff adds, “Over the same time period that we’ve seen deductibles skyrocketing, we’ve also seen support for a national health care plan slowly rising.”

Just as Democrats have hoped.

By merely tinkering with ObamaCare rather than ripping it out root and branch, the GOP has squandered an opportunity to deliver real, market-based solutions that address the quality and affordability of health care.

And rising costs are the consequence of leaving too much of the ACA in place without coming up with viable alternatives.

As Ed Morrissey writes, “The real cause of skyrocketing deductibles is that same government intervention. ObamaCare limited premium hikes and forced insurers to add more costs while eliminating risk-based rates with its ‘community pricing’ mandates.” Those costs have to be covered somehow.

Clearly, there are still problems with what’s left of ObamaCare, but there’s little clarity about how to deal with rising costs. Sure, there are plenty of health care experts and even some politicians with commonsense solutions, but none of them have made it into policy. And without alternatives, single-payer government health care starts to sound like the natural way forward.

This should scare the daylights out of freedom-loving Americans of all stripes.

Eric Earling writes at The Resurgent, “Too many conservatives, including both policymakers and pundits, don’t understand enough of the health policy and health care industry in question. Repeal and Replace was a joke, in part because despite campaigning on it, no one had a sound plan to do so.” Earling notes that Sen. Lindsey Graham and even Donald Trump have admitted that the health care issue was more complicated than they thought.

Robert Robb of the Arizona Republic writes simply, “Republicans failed to repeal and replace Obamacare, as they vowed to do.” Robb adds, “Equally responsible was a critical mass of GOP lawmakers who flinched at doing the things necessary to create a well-functioning health insurance market.”

With his inability to convince a handful of moderate Republican senators to repeal ObamaCare, the president must sense the issue slipping away, at least for now. And that’s got him worried. At many of his recent rallies, Trump has repeatedly mentioned the need for a health care system that covers pre-existing conditions as a way to remind wary voters that the issue is still on the GOP’s radar.

With polls showing that Americans are not only concerned about rising health care costs, but also indicating that they trust Democrats more than Republicans to bring down costs, time is running out for the president and his party. The midterms are only a few weeks away.

A quarter-century after Bill and Hillary Clinton tried to put government in charge of health care, Republicans still don’t have a plan to wrestle the issue back from the Left and convince voters that a government-run system isn’t good for health care or the country. But don’t worry. Should Democrats take back the House, Republicans will suddenly regain their clarity of purpose: “If only we had the power,” they’ll say, “here’s what we’d do.”

Lather, rinse, repeat.

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