by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
For too long, Republicans have shied away from calling for “universal coverage” because they’ve equated it with the Democratic push for a government-run, single-payer health-care system. But that simply isn’t the case. Market-based reforms can both lower costs and lead to health insurance coverage for more Americans. Indeed, any health-care reform that can’t compete with the ACA on coverage is sure to face significant political headwinds. It also would make it far less likely that Democrats can be persuaded to support replacement legislation. Perhaps most important, this is a fight that conservatives can — and should — win. …
… The apparent gap between what Trump appears to be proposing (universal coverage) and what Republicans have supported (universal access) isn’t nearly as wide as many analysts think. This gap is both narrow and bridgeable: There are policies that can ensure universal access to health insurance while also putting our nation on the path toward universal coverage.
Any market-based replacement for the Affordable Care Act should include four key elements to move us toward universal coverage.
First, it should expand access to consumer-directed coverage arrangements such as health savings accounts coupled with high-deductible insurance plans. These products not only help reduce costs but also give consumers greater control over their own care. Such increased control incentivizes individuals to do what consumers do best: make value-based decisions that collectively drive down costs and improve quality.
Second, assistance should go to those who need it but be tailored to their individual situations. Low-income Americans should have access to a more innovative and modern Medicaid program, while the working poor should have access to a tax subsidy to help them afford private plans.
Third, those with preexisting conditions should have access to mechanisms, such as properly funded high-risk pools, to help them both acquire and afford coverage.
Finally, the federal government should allow for alternative pathways to private, tax-preferred coverage, by allowing health plans to be sold across state lines, as well as by giving unions, churches or other civic organizations the opportunity to offer coverage to members.
Taken together, these policies provide a powerful set of tools to both drive down health-care costs and expand coverage to every American. Trump and the Republican Congress have a remarkable opportunity not only to do away with the ACA and all of its shortcomings but also to put in place reforms that will truly improve our health-care system. Republicans in Congress should not hesitate to embrace Trump’s call for universal coverage. Indeed, they should work with the new administration to pass legislation to make this goal a reality.