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Republicans need to take back the healthcare debate

An article from The Hill raises an important question that I always find myself asking when I think about Republican’s struggle to dominate the health care debate: Why don’t Republican’s discuss actual policy proposals when debating healthcare policy?

“Health care is such a significant part of our economy and the challenges are growing so great with the retirement of the baby boomers and the disruption brought about by ObamaCare that you can’t just cede a critically important issue to the other side,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster.

“Republicans need a positive vision about what should happen to lower costs, expand access and protect pre-existing conditions,” he added. “You’ve got to be able to answer the question, ‘So what do you think we should do about health care?’ ”

Mainstream Republican politicians at the federal and state level have failed to take the health care policy debate back from the Democrats after the passage of the ACA. Following the election of President Trump, Republicans in Congress had their best chance to reform the U.S. healthcare system in a meaningful way. They failed, and now “repeal and replace” is no longer a viable slogan for Republicans because, after 8 years of campaigning on this idea, their non-existent policy arguments fell flat and failed to advance a more conservative approach to our healthcare system:

“We should be the guys and gals that are putting up things that make health care more affordable and more accessible,” said Jim McLaughlin, another Republican pollster. “No question Democrats had an advantage over us on health care, which they never should have had because they’re the ones that gave us the unpopular ObamaCare.”

Obamacare should be one of the easiest public policy programs to argue against because of how much it disrupted the healthcare system, raised the price of insurance for many, and failed to control national health spending. Yet after eight years of railing against the program that massively overhauled the health care sector, Republicans have made no further ground on winning the debate of ideas for how better provide cheaper, high-quality care for Americans. And the sad thing is, there are policy proposals that would do this!

I challenge Republicans to do something they have rarely done on the main policy debate stage: offer conservative reforms that aren’t simply a hollow, “repeal and replace” farce. Talk about the benefits of a state having full control of their insurance markets. Talk about how rolling back insurance benefit mandates will lower costs for patients. Talk about the savings that will be realized if the costs of healthcare could be lowered or at best, keep at their current rates. Talk about how if we lower healthcare costs American’s will keep more of their salaries. Talk about how rolling back regulations will incentivize innovation. Talk about alternatives to expensive, ineffective health insurance. Show people how competition in the market will benefit patients and providers. Talk about how individuals should be making health care decisions based on their own needs, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach from Washington. Failure to inject these ideas into the debate will only allow those who support a single-payer, “Medicare-for-all” system to gain ground. The costs of that program would greatly exceed what Americans currently pay for healthcare.

Left as is, the healthcare sector spending is unsustainable. Politicians from both sides of the aisle should accept the fact that the system we have will bankrupt the country. Stand up to political pressure, acknowledge the blatant problems, do not allow the status quo to continue because all of the evidence shows it is not working.

Jordan Roberts / Health Policy Analyst

Jordan joined the Locke Foundation in the summer of 2018 as Health Care Policy Analyst. He analyzes state and national health policy issues with an eye toward removing governm...

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