A false choice: 'Obamacare or nothing' is wrong

A false choice: ‘Obamacare or nothing’ wrong

By Tim Griffin

Special to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

December 13, 2013

Many Americans had high hopes for the Affordable Care Act. After all, President Barack Obama promised “Obamacare” would do incredible things, fix what needed fixing and leave everything else alone.

Republicans raised concerns, but President Obama dismissed them.

Now, his oft-repeated promise that “if you like your plan, you can keep it” has proved untrue. Millions of Americans have discovered that their health insurance was canceled because of Obamacare. Others have lost their doctors, hours at work and even their jobs. Premiums have doubled, tripled or worse. The multimillion-dollar website is an embarrassing mess.

This is only the beginning. Months ago, President Obama unilaterally delayed half of his law for a year, but when it’s fully enforced, some experts predict as many as 100 million Americans could lose their health insurance and 30 million will remain uninsured-meaning Obamacare will never achieve its primary goal of universal coverage.

But President Obama continues to defend his law, saying repeal is out of the question. Apparently, if you don’t like it, that’s too bad-you have to keep it. “Obamacare’s critics … haven’t presented an alternative,” he says. It’s Obamacare or no care at all, he tells us, so Obamacare must be saved.

I believe President Obama is wrong on two counts: First, Obamacare is not fixable. The same politicians who designed it certainly cannot be trusted now with “improvements.” Americans were sold a lemon. They should be able to return it. Repealing a defective law is the first step toward creating a better system.

Second, I think President Obama attempts to mislead Americans by saying Republicans want to “go back to the way things used to be” because they have an “ideological fixation” with “making sure that 30 million people don’t have health care.” That’s nonsense.

The truth is that we want to (1) help the uninsured obtain coverage, (2) protect Americans with pre-existing conditions, and (3) let young adults stay on their parents’ plan. Republicans know this can be done without a Washington-knows-best takeover that wrecks everyone else’s health care.

Consider the facts: Before Barack Obama became his party’s nominee for president, Senate Republicans introduced the Every American Insured Health Act. Before Obamacare was passed, House Republicans proposed the Patients’ Choice Act and the Empowering Patients First Act.

Our proposals, including the American Health Care Reform Act of 2013 (HR3121) that I co-sponsored, rest on the idea that a top-down, factory-style, one-size-fits-all approach to health care is outdated, especially in our modern era of personalized, customized, made-to-order service. Republicans want an open health-care system, not a closed one controlled by Washington. Government shouldn’t stand between you and your doctor.

In the current Congress, House Republicans have introduced more than 200 health-care-related bills to build an open and innovative healthcare system, expand access, increase choice, and lower costs. These bills include bottom-up, patient-centered solutions like:

Making health insurance companies compete nationwide, across state lines. We should open up our healthcare system so Americans have the freedom to buy health insurance from any provider.

Guaranteeing affordable coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. We can ensure access by creating high-risk pools with premium caps and expanding Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protections.

Providing a universal tax incentive for buying health insurance. Whether Americans buy health insurance on their own or through an employer, the tax code should treat everyone equally and fairly, not discriminate.

Empowering families with tax-free Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). We want to help families save more for health-care expenses and encourage financial stability.

Increasing transparency so consumers know what they are paying for. In the age of the Internet, everyone can see prices and reviews of anything before buying-except when it comes to health care. Informed choices are better choices.

Enabling small businesses and other groups to pool their coverage. A no-brainer: If we let employers partner together to get the same insurance rates as large corporations, we’ll lower costs.

Cracking down on junk lawsuits. Capping attorney fees and reforming our legal system will let doctors focus on giving patients better care and save time and money wasted by frivolous claims.

Reducing the doctor shortage. Incentivizing primary-care physicians to work in underserved areas will help those who need it most.

Giving states flexibility to improve Medicaid through innovation. Freed from some federal mandates, Rhode Island increased choice and expanded access for low-income Americans while reducing costs. Other states should be able to do that.

The failure of Obamacare means we must act now. President Obama said recently, “If you’ve got good ideas, bring them to me.” I hope he meant what he said and will meet with us.

It’s not too late for a fresh start so we can get real health-care reform right.