January 4 2011
A Chance at a Clean Drawing Board on Health Reform
It's no surprise that one of the first actions of House Republicans in the 112th Congress will be a repeal vote for ObamaCare. Titled "HR 1: Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act," this short bill would basically restore health law in the United States "as if such Act," - that is, ObamaCare - "had not been enacted."
Repeal of ObamaCare would be a good first step in fixing the U.S. health care system. But even if it is a good policy move, it will be difficult given the current political landscape. The House can much more easily pass a bill for repeal than the Senate can. And even if both houses agree that ObamaCare should be thrown out, President Obama would have to sign a repeal.
America has already witnessed years of fighting between the right and the left about the good, the bad, and the ugly provisions of ObamaCare. But the fight is far from over. No doubt supporters on the left will focus on the new benefits of the law for certain groups. Opponents on the right will point out the law's great cost and its limitation of choice in the health care market.
Some speculate that a repeal vote in Congress is practically impossible, but is more important as a symbolic tool. It would put all the members of the 112th Congress on record - who votes nay, who votes yay, etc. - and it would send a message to the American people about whether or not they are being represented.
Obviously, Speaker Boehner is focused on the economic impact of ObamaCare. I don't think he can talk about the law without using the adjective "job-killing." It's true that ObamaCare will have a burdensome impact on business in the United States, but the implications of the law go much further than killing jobs. It will turn control of the health care system over to the government, require that all Americans purchase insurance coverage, and limit choice and innovation in medicine.
Reform began for two main reasons: out-of-control health care costs and difficult access to health care coverage for a segment of the population. These two problems are inherently linked. When uninsured people visit the hospital, they suffer (of course) because the high cost of care. But when they cannot pay the entire cost, we all suffer because medical providers must raise prices to cover their losses. ObamaCare will expand Medicaid and mandate insurance coverage in its best attempt toward universal coverage. But further socializing the costs of medical care will not lower costs. It will only further burden taxpayers, damage the quality and timeliness of care for everyone, and shrink our greatest American asset: personal freedom.
I'll repeat: Repeal of ObamaCare would be a good first step in fixing the U.S. health care system. But it is only a first step. It would be a clearing of the drawing board, a sharpening of our pencils, and a great challenge for the most innovative country in the world. I think we can do it.