Galen Institute President Grace-Marie Turner explains how government and private sector bureaucracy teamed up to drive the price of health care out of reach for tens of millions of Americans and why the Affordable Care Act only made things far worse. Turner also discusses why she believes the new Republican plan will succeed in bringing costs down and removing Washington from the doctor-patient relationship. Finally, she explains the factors that must be addressed to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
Conservatives and liberals are savaging the House Republican health care plan, but one of the leading advocates for a market-driven approach says the bill is a good start to imploding Obamacare and setting the stage for additional conservative reforms.
The plan is getting hammered by conservatives for not fully repealing the 2010 Affordable Care Act, failing to allow the purchase of coverage across state lines, and for allegedly replacing one entitlement program with another. Liberal critics say the plan would knock millions of Americans off health insurance and leave them one illness from bankruptcy again.
So what about those claims?
Galen Institute President Grace-Marie Turner is a veteran of Washington health care debates and was a fierce opponent of the Clinton health care reform effort in the 1990’s and Obamacare since 2009. She is encouraged by what she sees in the American Health Care Act and says the realities on Capitol Hill force this kind of legislation.
“It’s a first step. They’re pushing as far as they can with the process they have to go through. They do not expect any Democrats, in the House or the Senate, to vote for this. That means they have to do this through a particularly difficult process called reconciliation that limits the kinds of things you can repeal,” said Turner.
“They can’t repeal everything in the law through this process because it has to have direct spending and budget implications. They’re doing as much as they can and they have plans to go forward with other pieces of legislation, for example, that will allow people to purchase health insurance across state lines. That’s not possible through this particular pathway,” said Turner.
She says this legislation is needed to gut the worst parts of Obamacare.
“There will also be follow-on legislation going forward, but not if this [doesn’t pass]. You can’t build change on the crumbling infrastructure of Obamacare. You’ve got to begin with changes that lead us in a new direction,” said Turner.
“It’s like a battleship or an aircraft carrier. It takes a long time to turn this around ,” she added.
Turner also says a lot can be done to ease the burden on all Americans without involving Congress. She says Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price can accomplish a lot through the powers granted him in the original Affordable Care Act.
“Sec. Price has control of the regulatory mechanism. There were 20 million words of regulation written to enforce Obamacare. He has the power to undo a lot of those and to rewrite them but also to provide new guidance to the marketplace to engender much more competition and consumer choice,” said Turner.
Sec. Price outlined the very same strategy Tuesday at the White House.
Turner says the GOP bill offers important provisions like eliminating a trillion dollars worth of taxes on the economy and protecting coverage while the system transitions from Obamacare. She also says the bill takes a smarter look at Medicaid dollars that should mean less burden on the taxpayers.
“It begins the pathway to reform the Medicaid program, arguably one of the worst health care programs in the country that is bankrupting the states. At the same time, millions of people (on Medicaid) can’t find a doctor to see them,” said Turner.
And how would it do that?
“This legislation would begin the process of giving states a per capita allocation. A per capita allocation is very different from a block grant. It basically says we are going to make a distinction between moms and babies who are healthy and people who have multiple disabilities,” said Turner.
She also likes that states will have much more say over health care while Washington backs off.
“It gives states more power and more authority, not only to figure out how to take care of their citizens that are on Medicaid, but also to provide their citizens with more choices from the kind of health insurance that they want to buy, rather than have the federal government tell them the health insurance they have to buy,” said Turner.
But will the plan ultimately lower premiums and deductibles? Turner says that hinges on getting people to stay on insurance for the year once they’ve purchased it and getting more, young healthy people into the system.
“You need young, healthy people in the system. What do you do? You try to give them more choices, more options of more affordable coverage. So attracting people, giving them incentive to want to stay covered, by giving states more options to provide them with choices for health insurance – not just Washington’s three or four cookie-cutter policies,” said Turner, who also advocated for multi-year policies so patients could lock in rates for years at a time.
While acknowledging the fierce opposition to the plan from the right and left, Turner says the bill not only makes key changes but looks at health care in a whole new way.
“It’s a really different philosophy of giving people the market incentive to respond to consumers who are newly empowered and want to make responsible, good choices,” said Turner. “People want insurance but they don’t want insurance that costs more than their mortgage.”
This is one of multiple perspectives we will be sharing on this legislation as the debate continues.