During the recent political campaigns, Republicans touted a “repeal and replace” strategy for the nation’s health care mess. On Wednesday, House Republicans plan to hold a vote on repealing the new health care law, but no replacement is in sight.
This suggests that the problem can wait and that the nation can afford to revert to the old system for the foreseeable future. Not true.
Let’s review the reasons for needing immediate solutions, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The average insurance premium in 2010 for a family of four was $13,770. From 1999 to 2009, premiums for individuals increased by 120 percent and for families by 130 percent. Workers’ share of health costs jumped 14 percent in 2010.
Forty-three percent of employers surveyed last year say they have lost confidence in their ability to provide affordable health benefits a decade from now, according to the National Business Group on Health. That’s up from 27 percent in 2008. Last year, the percentage of workers with private insurance was the lowest since the government began keeping data in 1987.
In addition, the high cost of health care is crowding out other priorities of government. Education, transportation and criminal justice are some areas feeling the squeeze. Health care inflation is eroding the long-term financial health of Medicare.
Cost containment is vital. Repealing a law doesn’t solve that. Neither does the current law, which can only be effective if it is seen as a first step toward a comprehensive overhaul.
So this health care conversation must continue. Throttling one solution while not offering an alternative would be irresponsible.
During the lengthy debates of 2009 and early 2010, minority Republicans complained that their solutions were not being taken seriously. Among their suggestions were to allow insurance to be sold across state lines, greater incentives for health savings accounts and medical malpractice reform.
Now that they have control of the House of Representatives, Republicans should switch from defense to offense and write a bill that incorporates their thinking. Yes, it would probably have difficulty getting past the Senate and the president, but the same can be said for their bid to repeal the Democrats’ plan. Republicans know this, so they’re already talking about battling every funding request to stymie the new law. The nation cannot afford a long, drawn-out fight.
Instead of killing both parties’ ideas for reform, Republicans ought to look at their victory in November as an opportunity to continue a health care debate that cannot wait.
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