The Republican Party took over the House of Representatives, albeit with a much smaller majority than expected. So what can we expect from them in regards to healthcare, a serious matter? From their own political statements, nothing, as I point out below.
The French health care system, considered by many to be the best in the world, is basically universal Medicare, with additional insurance for teeth, vision, and so on. The per capita cost of the French system is half ($5,564 per capita) than ours ($11,945 per capita). In addition, the French are relatively satisfied with their healthcare system, while we are not.
But in our country, the previous leadership of the Democrats in Congress simply didn’t have the power that the lobbyists and their money had over the conservative Democrats/Independents in key positions to unilaterally adopt something like the French system.
And with the change of House, things will only get worse. The Republican Party continues to oppose real health care reform. In the long run, this will cause political damage to the Republican Party. But in the short term they are buried. This is despite the fact that before running for president, Donald Trump was a supporter of Medicare for All.
When Obama proposed health care reform in 2008, I predicted in my columns that it would be passed by Congress but would be inadequate because of GOP opposition. I was right.
The Democrats realized that they would end up with almost no support from the Republican Party. So, they handed something (ACA, Obamacare), then they declared their victory and exactly blamed the Republicans for their inaction. The truth is that a single payer would be a much better inclusive solution. But it would require substantial support from the Republican Party to pass it, as it did when Medicare was introduced in the 1960s. Thus Medicare for All was not even considered as proposed by Obama.
Let’s assume the obvious: a single-payer health care system will never be seriously considered by what is currently a center-right Senate (with Republicans and conservative Democrats/Independents) and a GOP-controlled House of Representatives. The “Public Insurance Option”, which has its drawbacks, also failed for the same reason.
Since Obamacare was adopted more than a decade ago, 35 million more people have received insurance. But many are still underinsured: according to one study, 34% of adults of working age do not have adequate insurance. The CDC estimates that 30 million Americans (11%) are uninsured and uninsured at all. Including many people in the 12 (soon to be 11) GOP-controlled states who choose not to expand Medicaid even though the federal reserves pay 90% of the cost. Texas has the highest number of uninsured residents in the nation at 18.4%.
And you can expect commercial insurance companies to continue to find loopholes to reduce their risk by eliminating sicker patients and charging the government inflated fees through Medicare Advantage. Of course, this is how they make money and pay their seven-figure salaries to their CEOs.
Let’s go back to the Republican Party, which hasn’t proposed any real reform for decades. By now, American voters should have realized that Republicans don’t want real change.
Here’s what the Republican Party’s Commitment to America plan for health care says:
- Ensure longer and healthier lives for Americans
- Personalize care to provide affordable options and higher quality delivered by trusted doctors.
- Lower prices through transparency, choice and competition, invest in lifesaving medicines and improve access to telemedicine.
In other words, GOP is an incomprehensible gibberish. In fact, they urge you to do nothing.
The American public knows deep down that serious health care reform is needed. And that the Democrats are the only party with viable ideas. Like it or not, health care reform (including cost control) is good for the country. And the Republican Party must ultimately endorse a greater government role in health insurance. Otherwise, health care will continue to be used as a stick against them in elections, just as Republicans use culture war values like “religious freedom” against Democrats.
The bottom line is that by opposing real reforms now, the Republican Party is losing out broadly in the long run. The only question is when the Democrats will refine their statements to push this vital issue into the upcoming 2024 election.
Jack Bernard is a retired corporate executive who has worked extensively with hospital systems throughout Texas.