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Op-ed Placement

Congressional Republicans Should Stop Trying to Save Obamacare

BY Sarah Anderson
03/28/2019
Originally Published in The Daily Caller by Sarah Anderson on 3/28/19.

This week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) recognized what Republicans in Congress have failed to: that the Affordable Care Act should not be defended. In this move, the DOJ agreed that “the district court’s judgement” — that Obamacare is unconstitutional — “should be affirmed.”

Without a doubt, Republicans across the country, including President Trump and his administration, are working their hardest to dismantle Obamacare. Some who aren’t in line however, are just on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

Although they have been promising Obamacare repeal for nearly a decade now on the campaign trail, some Republicans in Congress are looking in the opposite direction. Instead of repealing ObamaCare, proposal after proposal arises from the so-called party of small government to increase, not decrease, the influence of government in the health sector.

There is, of course, substantial public pressure to address healthcare costs in our country. Everything from high premiums and high deductibles to the cost of prescription drugs and unexpected out-of-pocket costs has driven Americans to wonder: How can we fix this?

In considering this question, what is often misunderstood, is that continued and increased government involvement in the healthcare system is the problem, not the solution. We have gotten to this point, where healthcare costs are burdening Americans across the country, because of government involvement, not in spite of it.

Obamacare’s stiff regulations on insurance companies that stifle the free market and limit competition have resulted in Americans’ health insurance coverage existing largely in name only. People hold insurance, but their plans are becoming increasingly inaccessible for practical purposes. The solution, then, is removing these onerous regulations that prevent healthcare and insurance providers from getting the care needed directly to patients in our country.

Republican proposals should, then, focus on eliminating regulations that have caused insurance networks to shrink, out-of-pocket prices to rise, and quality and availability of care to decline. This is in line with the promise to repeal Obamacare, which to this point has been ignored.

Each day that Congress fails to repeal Obamacare, individuals across America continue to foot bills that they don’t deserve, at no fault of their own. One such instance is the undoubtedly terrible scenarios, when somebody who needs immediate emergency care gets stuck with an astronomically large bill from a hospital that they did not know was out of their insurance network.

Under pressure to address this problem, Republicans like Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) have proposed “surprise billing” legislation that would, in essence, require insurance companies to treat out-of-network emergency care as if it were in-network. That is, requiring insurers to cover the cost, instead of allowing the hospital to pass the cost delta of the out-of-network cost on to the patient.

However, such a solution addresses the problem on the surface only. After all, what is the purpose of insurers building a network of care if they are required to treat out-of-network providers the same as in-network providers? The focus needs to be on expanding the availability of in-network care, which starts by loosening restrictions on insurance companies and allowing them to provide the plans that Americans need.

By requiring insurance companies to cover the cost delta of “surprise billing,” it may seem as though the patients no longer bear the cost. But, this is a false assumption. Just as every penny of tax dollars spent by the government for “free” things is footed by the taxpayers, so every penny spent by insurance companies is, ultimately, footed by those who hold insurance plans — the patients.

Obamacare was a government “solution” to a government-created problem, which in turn created a problem: inaccessible coverage and along with it, the rise of surprise billing. What should be clear is that the latest government “solution” isn’t going to fix it.

Republicans should work toward dismantling, not propping up, Obamacare. Instead of falling for the same trap of increased federal involvement in healthcare, which moves us ever toward single-payer, they need to change course quickly, and choose again to embrace the principles and policy of healthcare freedom and choice that they promised the American people.