Opinion

Viano: GOP health insurance reform bill must stop Obamacare-induced bleeding

Author: Jake Viano - May 4, 2017 - Updated: May 4, 2017

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Jake Viano
Jake Viano

Back in 2010, voters across the nation swept Republicans into office, giving the GOP the majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in years. Two years later, Americans allowed the Republicans to take control of the Senate, and the party has managed to maintain its majority in the federal legislative branch ever since.

Obviously, many issues have been in play, and each voter has his or her own individual reasons for selecting the candidate that they did. But there has undeniably been a common policy thread which has tied these elections together, a predominant reason for serial GOP majorities, and that has been the Republican promise to repeal the oxymoronically titled “Affordable Care Act,” better known colloquially as “Obamacare.”

Obamacare has been one of the most steadfastly unpopular government programs in recent times, and there is little mystery as to why this is so.

The expansive law, intended to reduce health care costs, did exactly the opposite — saddling Americans with cripplingly high insurance premiums and enormous tax increases. Forced to subsidize the health insurance of others, millions of people lost their own. The much-touted insurance exchanges failed all over the country, as insurance companies simply could not afford the ill-conceived and economically unsustainable regulations. The only thing consistently delivered by Obamacare was widespread economic hardship.

Is it any wonder that so many people all over America demanded that this pernicious law be repealed, and voted accordingly?

President Trump was elected, in large part, because of this public disdain for a law that had not only failed in its intent to fix a problem, but actually made the problem exponentially worse. Many believed, upon his election to the White House, that Republican control of both Congress and the executive branch would pave the way for the surgery needed to stop, and eventually reverse, the damage.

Unfortunately, like many Americans, I was disappointed with the House’s failure to effectively repeal Obamacare. A large part of the reason for that failure, of course, was that the initial ostensible effort at repeal fell remarkably short of what most Americans had hoped for. Large parts of Obamacare would be left intact under the plan offered a few weeks ago, including costly mandates and the Medicaid expansions that are a financial time bomb for the states — like Colorado — that foolishly adopted them.

A follow-up deal amounted to little more than a Band-Aid, and not a very strong one at that. It essentially allowed Washington D.C. to wash its hands of the deleterious policy by leaving it to the states to have to apply for waivers to undo the worst parts.

I am all for federalism, and in fact believe that most of these issues ought to have been decided at the state level in the first place. Unfortunately, this albatross is a federally imposed one, and leaving it to the states to clean it up through waivers applied for through the federal Department of Health and Human Services poses a number of problems. These substantial issues include: A) 17 of the states (including Colorado) have Democratic governors who are politically wedded to Obamacare, and will therefore never apply for the waivers, whatever the cost to their states; B) another 16 states have Republican governors who opted for the Medicaid expansion, and they would likely be unwilling to admit how bad a mistake they made; C) this means that in at least some states, some of the costliest parts of this federal law will remain in place, continuing to drive health care costs up nationwide; and D) since the waivers are granted via the executive branch, a future misguided president could easily reverse them — leaving the nation’s health care system in a sort of limbo for years, rather than offering a solution.

Americans need a better health delivery system, certainly better than what Obamacare offered, and that starts with stopping the bleeding caused by government interference and federal overreach in health care. Only once that is accomplished can we affect meaningful reforms; such as block granting Medicaid to the states, allowing exchanges to sell across state lines and, critically, severing health insurance from employment by providing the same tax breaks to individuals for purchasing insurance as is given to employers.

Short-term, ad hoc Band-Aid fixes are not sufficient. And we don’t need to rush something to the table — something we will have to pass in order to see what’s in it (remember that one?) — just to say we’ve “done something.” I urge all elected officials who value individual liberty and market-based solutions over collective mismanagement to stand firm, and work toward a better bill that finally accomplishes the much-needed and long-awaited repeal of Obamacare.

Jake Viano

Jake Viano is chair of the Denver County Republican Party.