The GOP Is Making Health Care Great Again
By Deroy Murdock, National Review
While Obamacare has been neither repealed nor replaced, it is being superseded. As President Donald Trump said, “We will deliver relief to American workers, families, and small businesses, who right now are being crushed by Obamacare, by increasing freedom, choice, and opportunity for the American people.”
The total number of Americans with health insurance rose from 292.3 million in 2016 to 294.6 million in 2017, the Census Bureau reports. Some of the following new reforms have helped 2.3 million more Americans enjoy medical coverage and alternatives under Republican leadership rather than Democrat mismanagement.
Republicans last December “ended the unfair individual-mandate penalty” under Obamacare, President Trump observed. “People are paying a lot of money for the privilege of not paying a lot of money for bad health care. And we’ve ended it.” Every single Democrat in Congress opposed individual-mandate repeal, which was part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Trump signed legislation in February to repeal the Independent Payments Advisory Board, also known as the “Death Panel,” that would have rationed Obamacare. IPAB is dead and threatens no one.
As promised, Trump signed the Right to Try Act on May 30. Terminally ill Americans who have exhausted other options now are free to use drugs that have passed the FDA’s Phase 1 safety trials but not yet passed effectiveness tests. The FDA’s “compassionate use” program only helped some 1,200 patients annually, the White House estimates. It added: “‘Right to Try’ gives the over 1 million Americans who die from a terminal illness every year a new tool to fight and make potentially lifesaving decisions about their treatment.”
“People who are terminally ill should not have to go from country to country to seek a cure,” Trump said. “I want to give them a chance right here at home.”
The U.S. House’s roll call on this measure showed the parties’ true colors.
All 228 Republicans present voted for the Right to Try on May 22. But only 22 Democrats voted yes. The other 169 voted to deprive terminally ill Americans of the experimental drugs that might keep them alive. California’s Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters, Maryland’s Steny Hoyer, and New York’s Jerrold Nadler were among the pharmo-totalitarians who did not let even these imminent deaths tame their lust to control others.
The Trump administration in June authorized “association health plans.” Entrepreneurs, small employers, and civic organizations (e.g., the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Association of Michigan) now may join hands and insure their employees and members, including across state lines.
Last summer, the administration extended the duration of short-term, limited health plans from three months to one year, with renewals permitted up to three years. In essence, Team Trump increased twelve-fold the allowable length of short-term policies. “For example, according to E-Health, the average lowest premium for an Obamacare plan for a 40-year-old woman is about $4,200 per year,” Trump noted. “By contrast, the average lowest premium for short-term coverage for this individual is about $1,300 a year — a savings of $3,000,” or 69 percent off.
These plans are cheaper because they lack many of Obamacare’s costly, needless, and foolish mandates. Every Obamacare plan must include pediatric vision coverage — even if the policy holder is childless, sterile, and mortally terrified of small, screaming objects.
The GOP’s cost-cutting, liberty-expanding dynamic contrasts vividly with the Democrats’ cruel, truncheon-wielding approach. As Health Secretary Alex Azar wrote in the Washington Post on August 15: “Such plans were offered for terms of up to 12 months for decades until, in an effort to push Americans into Obamacare, the previous administration restricted the plans to 90 days and prohibited insurers from renewing them beyond that time period.”
The administration in August required hospitals to post the prices of their procedures online and update them annually. Patients will be able to shop around when deciding where to get treated. Such competition should slow or even counteract medical-cost inflation.
The president this month signed two bills that increase drug-price transparency. “Our great citizens deserve to know the lowest price available at our pharmacies,” he said. “They’ll be able to see pricing. … And as they start leaving certain pharmacies, those pharmacies will be dropping their prices.”
The administration opposes “gag clauses” in Medicare Part D plans. Pharmacists now are free to tell patients about money-saving prescription-drug options.
President Trump has turned the FDA’s red lights green. “We’ve massively sped up the FDA approval process,” he said October 10. “Last year, the FDA approved more than 1,000 low-cost generics — the most in its history … saving America almost $9 billion in the first year of my administration.”
“We have approved seven state waivers that provide federal assistance to help states pay for the sickest patients and allow insurers to keep premiums lower, all without increasing taxpayer burden,” Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), wrote last week. “These waivers appear to be working. For example, Wisconsinites will see their individual market premiums decrease by an average of 11 percent, due to the waiver.”
In an op-ed in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Health Secretary Alex Azar unveiled another option for patients. Employers will be liberated to offer workers tax-free Healthcare Reimbursement Arrangements. Employees could use HRA funds to cover qualified medical expenses. Employers who provide group coverage will be allowed to deposit up to $1,800 in each employee’s HRA annually.
Also, the secretaries wrote, “we would permit employers to offer HRAs to reimburse employees for health insurance purchased in the individual market.” This repeals a particularly ugly display of President Obama’s sadism. “In 2013, the Obama administration forbade employers from using HRAs or any similar arrangements to reimburse employees’ premiums for individual market coverage. That shut down an option many employers had used to assist employees in obtaining coverage.”
These reforms may explain the most startling development of all: Obamacare’s damage seems to be in remission. Average, annual, individual premiums on HealthCare.gov grew from $2,784 in 2013 to $5,712 in 2017 — a 105 percent hike. With Americans now enjoying greater freedom and choices, and insurers largely unshackled, Obamacare’s destruction is being reversed.
CMS reports that average Obamacare premiums will drop 1.5 percent in 2019, the first decline since this monstrosity took full effect in 2014. Rates are expected to fall 16 percent in Pennsylvania and 26 percent in Tennessee. According to the White House, 23 new insurers will enter the market next year. Today, 56 percent of counties in the federal exchange have only one insurer. Next year: 39 percent.
Ignore the Democrats. Republicans are making healthcare great again.