Home > Market, Obamacare, Republican > Hey DC Republicans! Forget defunding Obamacare, you need a healthcare vision to sell first!

Hey DC Republicans! Forget defunding Obamacare, you need a healthcare vision to sell first!

July 29, 2013

lijenhsin_head_mirrorRight now Republicans in Congress are posturing to block any budget or continuing resolution (because of a lack of budget) that includes funding Obmacare. It seems like a good path to go from a fiscally conservative anti-Obamacare perspective. But reality is a lot different from something that “sounds good”. Over at Reason there is an excellent post by Peter Suderman about The GOP’s Unworkable Plan to Defund Obamacare. Suderman’s whole article is worth reading, however I would like to focus on what he has to say about healthcare policy and the GOP:

This is the problem for the GOP when it comes to health policy: It has no idea what it really wants, except repealing Obamacare, and maybe protecting Medicare for today’s seniors. (Mitt Romney’s primary health policy message, you may recall, was that Obama should not have cut Medicare to pay for Obamacare.) Which is probably why the party is having such trouble fighting a law that’s clearly having more than its share of bureaucratic troubles, and why GOP legislators are finding it so difficult to harness the very real public frustrating and confusion with Obamacare. Republicans, having never made the issue a priority, can offer no real alternative of their own except: not this. On health policy, Democrats may not have something that people like, exactly, but they have something. And they have that something because they spent the time to build it. As a party, and as a political institution, Republicans have never spent the time and effort required to unite the bulk of the party, and enough of the public, around a workable alternative. Instead, it has unworkable plans to fight the president’s policy.

This is exactly why Republicans are known as the “party of no“. I agree it is important to defund Obamacare. But while doing so the Republicans must set forth a vision as to what they plan to do instead. There is no semblance of a vision coming from the GOP.

Out of curiosity I chose to look at the 2012 Republican Platform (the one Romney failed under). Here is the relevant portion for this debate:

Our goal is to encourage the development of a healthcare system that provides higher quality care at a lower cost to all Americans while protecting the patient-physician relationship based on mutual trust, informed consent, and privileged patient confidentiality. We seek to increase healthcare choice and options, contain costs and reduce mandates, simplify the system for patients and providers, restore cuts made to Medicare, and equalize the tax treatment of group and individual health insurance plans. For most Americans, those who are insured now or who seek insurance in the future, our practical, non-intrusive reforms will promote flexibility in State leadership in healthcare reform, promote a free-market based system, and empower consumer choice. All of which will return direction of the nation’s healthcare to the people and away from the federal government.

OK? But how are you going to do that. I’m not going to re-post all of the healthcare section here (it is quite large). Most of the actual bullet points are more high-level ideas than policy items. It has been written vague enough that the Republicans can basically do anything they want and still say they are “working within the platform.”

There is also another problem with the Republican approach to healthcare. Here are some of the phrases I see used throughout the healthcare section:

  • We will ensure
  • we will work to ensure
  • We support federal investment
  • We urge a ban
  • We urge enactment of pending legislation

From a libertarian point of view the Republican Platform seems just as interventionist as the Democrat plan (Obamacare). Ironically this phrase is also hidden within the Republican healthcare platform: “To achieve a free market in healthcare and ensure competition…”. So, if I am reading the Republican platform correctly they are going to create a free market in healthcare by implementing the government controls they want; as opposed to the government controls the Democrats want.

Nope, not buying it. The Republicans have no actual plan or vision. I can understand that plans are hard to put into a platform, but an overall vision should be viable. The Republicans simply have nothing to offer that can provide true counter-points to Obamacare.

There is another way. Here is the whole Libertarian Party Platform section for healthcare:

Making Healthcare Safe and Affordable

As recently as the 1960s, low-cost health insurance was available to virtually everyone in America – including people with existing medical problems. Doctors made house calls. A hospital stay cost only a few days’ pay. Charity hospitals were available to take care of families who could not afford to pay for healthcare.

Since then the federal government has increasingly intervened through Medicare, Medicaid, the HMO Act and tens of thousands of regulations on doctors, hospitals and health-insurance companies.

Today, more than 50 percent of all healthcare dollars are spent by the government.

Health insurance costs are skyrocketing. Government health programs are heading for bankruptcy. Politicians continue to pile on the regulations.

The Libertarian Party knows the only healthcare reforms that will make a real difference are those that draw on the strength of the free market.

The Libertarian Party will work towards the following:

1. Establish Medical Saving Accounts.

Under this program, you could deposit tax-free money into a Medical Savings Account (MSA). Whenever you need the money to pay medical bills, you will be able to withdraw it. For individuals without an MSA, the Libertarian Party will work to make all healthcare expenditures 100 percent tax deductible.

2. Deregulate the healthcare industry.

We should repeal all government policies that increase health costs and decrease the availability of medical services. For example, every state has laws that mandate coverage of specific disabilities and diseases. These laws reduce consumer choice and increase the cost of health insurance. By making insurance more expensive, mandated benefits increase the number of uninsured American workers.

3. Remove barriers to safe, affordable medicines.

We should replace harmful government agencies like the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) with more agile, free-market alternatives. The mission of the FDA is to protect us from unsafe medicines. In fact, the FDA has driven up healthcare costs and deprived millions of Americans of much-needed treatments. For example, during a 10-year delay in approving Propanolol Propranolol (a heart medication for treating angina and hypertension), approximately 100,000 people died who could have been treated with this lifesaving drug. Bureaucratic roadblocks kill sick Americans.

Do you see that. Three steps that work around the overall vision of returning the healthcare system back to when it worked the best. There are three separate sections that work towards this vision. First lets work to make sure all healthcare related expenses are before taxes. Instead of killing MSA’s (and HSA’s) like Obamacare does we should instead promote the use of such accounts. Such an approach also keeps employers out of the insurance business. That would be a winning solution for employers and employees alike. Employers would no longer need worrying about insurance regulations or varying costs. Employees would no longer feel they must keep working for bad employers because they don’t want to lose their health insurance.

Then lets deregulate the health care industry. As prices fall due to deregulation it will become less important to have great insurance. When prices drop down to their true market rates it would allow people to buy standard medical services directly from their MSA. Americans could then rely more upon the MSA and purchase only catastrophic insurance plans. That puts the insurance industry back to where it belongs: a last-resort method used only in emergencies.

Finally the FDA has to be replaced with something that actually works! To be fair the Republican Platform also included a very similar item to this. However the libertarian approach lets the market determine the best means to achieve drug safety. There are many industries that have private accreditation agencies. A privatized accreditation of new drugs would take politics and government bureaucracy out of the drug approval process.

In the end, the Republican Platform on healthcare and the DC Republicans choice to defund Obamacare with no alternative will backfire on them. It doesn’t matter if a majority hate Obamacare because they will support it over a plan of “we will do something different”. I don’t expect the GOP to take on the Libertarian approach, that would require them to actually be for smaller government. Instead I expect them to mess up the Obamacare debate and cost themselves votes in the 2014 election.

  1. July 30, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Thanks for sharing your perspective on this issue. We cover the PPACA debate regularly, if you’re interested: http://bit.ly/11qcvqd. Feel free to give feedback.

  1. September 9, 2013 at 1:52 pm
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