Obamcare critics have nothing new to offer

Let’s continue with the healthcare reform theme I’ve been addressing all week.

On Tuesday, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) had an opinion piece in The Hill in which he listed four important principles of healthcare reform GOP-style.

First, lower the costs of healthcare.

Duh.  While very little of Obamacare has kicked in to address lowering the cost of healthcare, reports do indicate that the past big increases in health care spending have almost stopped.   

Second, put patients and providers back in charge.

Here Senator Barrasso mentions several ideas mainly to make health insurance more affordable for individuals through premium tax breaks and more competition.  Both are worthy concepts.  Obamacare will increase competition through each state’s health insurance exchanges where most individuals will get their health insurance come 2014, much like they do in Massachusetts (another part of Mitt Romney’s successful healthcare reform).  Obamacare will also have health insurance premium tax breaks for individuals on a sliding scale. 

However, Senator Barrasso includes a failed idea under his second point.  He calls for Americans to be able to purchase health insurance across state lines.  Georgia passed legislation to do just that last year.  No insurance company in that state is offering such policies.

Third, take reasonable steps to reduce the number of uninsured Americans.

Here Senator Barrasso has no new ideas.  Instead he talks about how bad Medicaid is, that many doctors won’t accept Medicaid patients and how Medicaid “doesn’t provide what the patient calls care:”

Shame on Dr. Barrasso.  He has been a physician for 25 years.  He should know better than to condemn the Medicaid program and the quality of healthcare provided by doctors who accept the payments.  The Medicaid program has been a success in providing access to the poor and has financially benefitted many healthcare providers who would otherwise not be compensated for services to the needy.

Oh, Senator Barrasso does offer exactly one idea to reduce the number of uninsured—allow small businesses to form a pool to purchase health insurance for their employees.  This pooling idea has been around for decades and has in most cases failed for a number of reasons.  Here in South Carolina the General Assembly passed legislation in 2008 to make it very easy for small businesses to form such health insurance pools.  Not one has been successfully established. 

Obamacare does include funding to establish state health insurance CO-OPS for individuals and small businesses.   These would be true cooperatives not health insurance buying pools.   Whether these CO-OPS will eventually be successful we don’t know.  But because they are being provided with grants to get them running they have a much better chance than Senator Barrasso’s old idea. 

Fourth, tort reform.

Senator Barrasso says that doctors are being forced to “practice defensive medicine by ordering expensive and unnecessary tests.”  The idea is that this increases healthcare costs and thus drives up health insurance premiums.  So if we simply put low caps on how much a patient can receive from a medical malpractice jury verdict (tort reform), then insurance companies will lower the doctors liability premiums and that will reduce healthcare costs for everyone.

Sounds good.  But it doesn’t work.  Texas passed such legislation in 2003.  Insurance companies did reduce their costs and there was an initial reduction in malpractice insurance for doctors.  But health insurance premiums in Texas weren’t reduced.  So the insurance companies made out like bandits, the doctors saved a little, injured patients were not compensated properly; but there was nothing for the rest of Texas that has health insurance premiums higher than the nation’s average.

Senator Barrasso and the detractors of Obamacare have nothing new to offer for healthcare reform if the Supreme Court rules the law unconstitutional…just more failed ideas and partisan complaining.

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