Healthcare has been a dividing issue in American politics for decades now, but in the past eight years, the debate has transformed into a raging fire the likes of which only Californians have witnessed. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, in 2010, Republicans have vowed to dismember and revoke the polarizing legislation.
Since the Trump Administration took the reins almost one year ago, House and Senate Republicans have attempted to repeal Obamacare in whole or in parts to fulfill long-time campaign promises. However, the efforts were fruitless due to intra-party divisions among Senate Republicans that stymied every attempt to repeal Obamacare. A small victory was won when Congress passed tax legislation late last year which included the repeal of the individual mandate that penalized those who didn’t have health insurance.
The US healthcare system is still in complete disarray and since the passage of Obamacare, premiums have skyrocketed with an average increase of 60% between 2013 and 2017 for HMO, PPO, and POS plans. Before legislation went into effect in 2014, the premiums for those plans was increasing at an average of 10% annually according to data collected by Forbes. Their article continues to break down the premium increase by groups like age, family size, individuals, and types of plans.
With the increase in healthcare costs, consolidation of healthcare providers, mergers of hospitals, and a decrease in quality of providers associated with the ACA, rural healthcare faces problems. Coming from Kansas, I see some of the issues rural counties face. Smaller regional hospitals are closing due to higher operational costs, forcing people to travel further for treatment. The smaller clinics that are scattered throughout the rural communities can’t retain quality physicians and they can’t treat as many issues due to lack of available facilities and specialists. Also, much of the rural population is older, making healthcare a more pressing issue regarding American’s life spans.
Another issue facing the healthcare system is the consolidation of providers. As companies consolidate, the choices available to consumers are dwindling. As history has proven, when there is lack of choices and lack of competition, prices increase. That is what has happened under Obamacare. When there is no competition in the marketplace, a few companies get to determine the prices and they can set it as high as they please. For example, EpiPen maker Mylan raised the price from $100 to $600 for a two-pack of pens. Something that some people consider a lifesaving medicine, must pay $300 for a single EpiPen. Why? Because there is no competition to help drive prices down. While this article from the Brookings Institute differs from my point of view on the solutions to the problems, it does an excellent job of highlighting the same problem being discussed.
Democrats and liberals believe the answer to the problem is for the government to step in; however, government caused the problem in the first place. Government regulations hinder the ability for competing companies to produce their own version of the drug to create diversity in the market and by consequence, drive down prices.
The simple solution to healthcare issues in the United States is so simple that it’s right in front of everybody’s face: the states. Completely repealing the ACA and handing the issue to the states will have multiple benefits, such as decreasing federal spending, cutting government bureaucracy, and making issues more local. States are better able to determine the needs of their residents and can be more efficient by bringing it down to a smaller scale. Californians would be able to make healthcare legislation specific to their issues, and Kansans can do the same for theirs, rather than trying to cover a wide range of different issues under one large umbrella. Allowing states to regulate healthcare would also cut government spending that keeps ballooning regardless of who is in the White House or which party controls Congress. Doing this would also make government more efficient because Congress will have more time to debate other issues.
It’s a simple solution that could potentially give everyone the results they want, instead of the situation the country is currently in.