Breathe, regroup, and re-enlist in the movement to #Resist the egregious GOP agenda to dismantle the 20th century. The health insurance bill was the first fight, but it won’t be the last.
First, expect the GOP to repeat ad nauseam all the old talking points about the Affordable Care Act, and to keep working in the background to eliminate key elements of health care assistance, and we need to be prepared to counter them.
“Premiums have skyrocketed” — Counter: While there are some states in which premiums for health care insurance have increased dramatically, there are others like Indiana and Rhode Island in which premiums have actually decreased. Nevada’s increase was a modest 8% when compared to pre-ACA rate increases. [See KFF chart for all 50 states.] Counter: Premiums are only part of the consumer costs. If an insurance policy offers low premiums, but includes higher co-payments and deductibles then it really isn’t “cheaper.”
“Democrats want to bail out the Health Insurance Corporations.” The Republicans used this line when attacking the legislation to get ourselves out of the Great Recession, the product of unfettered financialism on the part of investment banks. This line has served them well, and Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) utilized it almost constantly to impress Nevada voters with his “independence” when bragging about how he voted against “bank bailouts” in the Dodd Frank Act, legislation which applied common sense regulation to investment bank practices.
A much better frame for this argument from the pro-ACA side would be that we want to stabilize the insurance markets. Including a re-insurance element to the ACA would be helpful. There is a way to introduce these topics without resorting to protracted arcane discussions about the nuances of the insurance market: Explain the Three R’s. Risk Adjustment. Reinsurance. Risk Corridors.
“Government is forcing people to buy insurance they don’t want.” I’m fond of hauling out my auto insurance — even though I’m fully aware of the fact that this is far from a good analogy. I have one vehicle which works and one that doesn’t. For the one that works I have a comprehensive policy, and for the one that doesn’t I have a basic policy. What the ACA does is require a “basic policy.” The old rig isn’t going to hit anyone or anything unless a tornado picks it up and moves it — but I still have some liability insurance for it. The policy pools all car owners, and basic is basic, so there’s liability insurance on a vehicle that isn’t moving and isn’t going to without a tow truck. (Please don’t ask why I still have it…the answer is irrational.)
Individual mandates and employer mandates aren’t popular. That’s fairly irrefutable. However, those mandates are an essential part of creating a widening POOL of policy holders, which in fact serves to help contain health care cost increases.
“But everyone has access to health care…in the emergency room.” No, all this means is that everyone has access to EMERGENCY health treatment, which, as we all know is the most expensive place to receive care. Further, “having access” is not the same as being able to pay for it — thus the pre-ACA misery of personal bankruptcies and hospitals with disturbing amounts of uncompensated care on their books.
Secondly, have a plan. A plan to address specific needs for specific problems. If health care costs are rising faster than other consumer needs, then address this directly. (1) Allow the government to negotiate prescription drug prices for Medicare the same way the VA negotiates prices for veterans’ medication. (2) Incentivize prescription drug research while limiting excessively high prices. This sounds impossible, but really isn’t. A paper from the Brookings Institution (pdf) explains how this might be accomplished. If about $1 out of every $6 spent on health care is related to prescription drugs, holding the line in this realm would be helpful. (3) Allow the importation, or re-importation, of medication. This probably isn’t as efficacious as some of the other proposals, but it, too, could be helpful.
(4) Encourage practices which yield better health care outcomes. Thus far we have a system which pays for services rendered — as it should — however, efforts to study and promote best practices. This is a component of the ACA and one that should be publicized more effectively. (5) Emphasize preventive medicine. This, too, is an element incorporated into the ACA, and deserves more attention. It’s far better for all concerned to promote annual health check ups, healthy lifestyle and nutrition programs, and vaccinations than it is to cover the costs of heart attacks and preventable diseases. The insurance corporation doesn’t have to pay out the claims for the heart attack, the hospital doesn’t risk providing uncompensated care, the physician doesn’t run that same risk, and the person who avoided the heart attack in the first place is working and continues being a productive member of society.
(6) The slippery slope message is already in the public domain. “What the Democrats really want is ‘single payer.’” Yes, some do. The Republican cognitive dissonance hits the surface when some conservatives decry socialized medicine while famously exhibiting their “Get Government Hands Off My Medicare” signs. However, this argument is both accurate and speculative at the same time. Some Democrats are, indeed, in favor of single payer. Some are more likely to support a public option where private corporations are reluctant to enter the private health insurance market. Others would simply prefer to sustain the present health insurance exchange marketplace system under the current provisions of the ACA. There’s no monolithic, lock step, Democratic position on this issue, which is both a political problem for massing support for a specific proposal, and a political opportunity to let local voters select the candidate who best represents their views.
Third, we need to recognize that “repeal and replace” was never a serious proposal in the first place. Had it been serious, then surely in the seven years since the passage of the ACA the Republican party would have come up with something more substantial than cutting Medicaid, limiting jury awards for malpractice, defunding Planned Parenthood, and giving tax breaks to the ultra-wealthy among us. They were perfectly happy to vote in favor of complete repeal of the ACA until the burden shifted to their own backs, then the GOP controlled Senate couldn’t come up with 50 votes for a sham bit of legislation no-one wanted.
Slogans are effective public relations, but they are woefully inadequate policy proposals. No, the ACA isn’t “socialized medicine.” If it were then the Heritage Foundation wouldn’t have provided the framework of the plan as a response to Hillary Clinton’s health care proposals back in the ’90s.’ Granted, the Heritage Foundation didn’t include increasing Medicaid coverage, and it did include ‘tort reform,’ but the other similarities are striking even if hard-line Republicans in 1993 opposed the bill based on the framework, and it never came to a floor vote.
The GOP Zombie Bills may be gone, but the fight isn’t over. And the obese ladies who would do better to follow the advice given by their doctors (covered as part of the ACA mandated insurance) aren’t yet singing.