Single-payer makes ACA more palatable
Even though Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” health-care bill has no near-term chance of advancing with Republicans in power, it has something in common with the Republican agenda — it aims to replace the Affordable Care Act.
“BernieCare” goes farther down the path toward socialized medicine than “Obamacare” ever did, seeking to turn the nation’s health-care system into federally run health insurance.
Whether this idea has legs, Sanders has upped the ante on the defining domestic policy issue of our times. Until now, Democrats presented a united front on preserving Obamacare while Republicans have been divided on how, or even whether, to repeal and replace it.
Now, the single-payer issue has the power to unite Republicans and divide Democrats with mid-term elections on the horizon that will determine control of the U.S. House and Senate.
Political implications aside, we shouldn’t hope for Medicare writ large. We should hope for a solution that preserves some free market forces to encourage innovation, drug development and some dynamic community health tools from private insurers.
True, the U.S. healthcare system is mediocre compared to contemporary democracies, but the level of health care on this planet would not approach what it is today were it not for the forces within our free-market system driving innovation.
The incentives to innovate are greatly diminished under a health-care system solely controlled by the government. It’s easy to demonize insurance companies, but they have developed remarkably effective systems for caring for large chunks of people.
The U.S. healthcare system is very good at “exotic” medicine, but it’s not no great at delivering ordinary care. We can fix that, but first we have to preserve the framework of Obamacare, which suddenly represents the middle-ground solution to the health-care conundrum. Abandoning it for socialized medicine or a purely free-market system poses tremendous downsides for consumers.
But without a bipartisan commitment to stabilize Obamacare and lower costs on the individual health-care market, it can’t work as intended. That will only heighten calls for a single-payer system. Socialized medicine should be a last resort if we can’t fix the system we have. We don’t have long, though.
A coalition of eight governors, led by our own John Hickenlooper and Ohio’s John Kasich, have provided a blueprint to make Obamacare more functional. The plan focuses on how to keep and fix the current law, rather than repeal and replace it.
It preserves the individual mandate, which is a key component to holding down costs. The economies of any plan break down without it.
Last month, Kasich and Hickenlooper unveiled 18 recommendations to maintain the stability of the individual market, which will “almost certainly” reduce premiums expand coverage, Hickenlooper said.
The plan had a lukewarm reception, but that may change. By introducing “BernieCare” as an alternative to the existing law, Sanders may have made the best case yet that Obamacare is worth fixing.