Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — known as Obamacare — have faltered amidst disagreements between conservatives and moderates. Conservatives believe that the measure as proposed in the Senate does not go far enough, while moderates cringe at the prospect of 22 million more Americans joining the ranks of the uninsured. (The House bill would see 23 million citizens added to the uninsured; both estimates come from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.)
Meanwhile, consumers and business owners struggle under the weight of perennial double-digit increases in health-insurance premiums, high drug prices, lack of competition in rural areas and — in some states — collapsing exchanges. High premiums have prompted a proliferation of high-deductible health plans, adding to the financial burden of individuals fated to require medical care.
President Trump is right. Clearly, the system as structured doesn’t work. But the answer is not to eliminate the ACA; the answer is to fix it. The number of uninsured has plummeted since passage of the ACA in 2010, dropping by 20.4 million as of Sept. 30, 2016, to 28.2 million, or 8.8 percent of the population, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
That’s a good thing. Throwing at least 22 million back onto the uninsured rolls is not.
Republican and Democratic leadership should convene a bipartisan working group to create meaningful health-care reform, fixing the myriad problems that exist. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., hinted at just such an outcome recently — although he might have intended the statement more as a cudgel against recalcitrant Republicans than an actual overture to Democrats.
But reason should dictate that legislators of both parties do their utmost to prevent catastrophic collapses of health-insurance exchanges, even as they reject throwing tens of millions off the insurance rolls.
Bipartisan agreement surely could be reached on some key points, such as allowing for reduced-coverage insurance plans that might prove attractive to younger people — and more affordable. Democrats might not like the idea but could probably accept it. And perhaps Republicans could stomach spending more money to help the aged and chronically ill.
Other measures could be agreed that would do much to improve the insurance and health-care markets.
It’s called compromise. It’s time for both parties to figure it out.