While President Obama and congressional liberals have yet to come down from the high of passing their historically horrible health care legislation, conservatives are still hard at work promoting health care reform. This is because with its numerous new taxes, mandates, penalties, regulations, and new role for government, Obamacare can hardly be called reform. Instead, the recently passed law is more likely to aggravate existing problems and create new ones for our health care system, not to mention add staggering new amounts to the federal deficit.
One crusader still hard at work is Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). In an article published last week in the New York Times, Rep. Ryan writes, “To be clear: it is not sufficient for those of us in the opposition to await a reversal of political fortune months or years from now before we advance action on health care reform. Costs will continue their ascent as the debt burden squeezes life out of our economy. We are unapologetic advocates for the repeal of this costly misstep. But Republicans must also make the case for a reform agenda to take its place, and get to work on that effort now.”
Rep. Ryan outlines the following as changes opponents of Obamacare can start making headway on now:
- Reforming the Regressive Tax Treatment of Insurance. Says Rep. Ryan, “This discriminatory tax treatment lavishes the greatest benefit on the most expensive plans while providing no support for the unemployed, the self-employed or those who don’t get coverage from their employer.” Removing this biased tax treatment and replacing it with a more equitable system of universal tax credits would create more affordable and portable care for all Americans.
- Coverage for Pre-Existing Conditions. New law ensures coverage for those with pre-existing condition by requiring guaranteed access. However, in order prevent those who need insurance from waiting until they are sick to purchase it, this provision is accompanied by an unprecedented and unconstitutional individual mandate to purchase insurance. Instead, Rep. Ryan suggests “focus[ing] on state-based solutions, including robust high-risk pools, reinsurance markets and risk-adjustment mechanisms.”
- Strengthening Patient Choice. One of the biggest faults with our current health care system is that patients are shielded from the financial choices surrounding their care. Obamacare will only make this worse. Instead, Rep. Ryan argues that “We should ensure that health care decisions are made by patients and their doctors, not by bureaucrats, whether at an insurance company or a government agency. By inviting market forces into health care, we can encourage a system where doctors, insurers and hospitals compete against one another for the business of informed consumers.”
- Real Entitlement Reform. If middle-aged and younger Americans wish to receive the benefits of Medicare and Social Security in old age, something must be done to restore sustainability to these financially crippling programs. As Rep. Ryan points out, entitlement programs create a long-term obligation of $76 trillion—it is impossible that the United States could fulfill this obligation without going bankrupt. Entitlement programs alone will eclipse historical tax levels by 2052—this is to say nothing of other federal programs, such as defense and education. Proponents of Obamacare claim that billions in cuts to spending on Medicare will prolong its solvency, but this is false—all projected savings from Medicare will go to paying for new entitlements under the new law. Addressing this problem now will ensure that the safety net provided to senior citizens and low-income Americans will persist for generations to come.
Repealing the breathtakingly sloppy legislation passed by Congress last week should remain a priority for proponents of true health care reform. Rep. Ryan’s rallying cry reminds us that “[t]he opposition must always speak with vigor and candor on the need for wholesale repeal and for real reform to fix what’s broken in health care.” Heritage analyst Nina Owcharenko further explains here how Congress can achieve successful health care reform with bipartisan support.