Republicans must offer a bold ObamaCare alternative to put patients in control

This spring, former President Barack Obama publicly celebrated the 14th anniversary of his signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act (i.e. “ObamaCare”). But what is there to celebrate? The country’s health care system is a complete disaster, and ObamaCare made it even worse. 

The average family health insurance premium is nearly $24,000 and is guaranteed to increase every year. Deductibles and hospital visits have more than doubled in the last 15 years. These costs have outpaced inflation, and every day Americans are forced to eat the increases without any corresponding increase in quality.

Health care affordability is understandably a top concern for voters heading into the 2024 election. Progressive Democrats only real answer is to double down and impose single-payer, socialized medicine on the American people. So, if Republicans want to head off that catastrophe, we need to get serious and focus on fixing these problems right away.

The admission price for criticism is a constructive alternative. If Republicans want to criticize Democrats’ health care polices, we need to put forward and fight for a bold vision of our own. We will not lower health care prices without going after the Big Hospital, Big Insurance, Big Corporation and Big Pharma leviathan that ObamaCare is protecting — as politically difficult as that will be.

For too long, Republicans have been fighting the health care battle on Democrats’ turf. We went from working to repeal ObamaCare completely to trying — and failing — to replace ObamaCare with “Obamacare lite.” As of late, it appears Republicans have given up on doing anything bold, settling instead for doing “something.”

The D.C. uniparty’s latest solution to astronomical health care prices is the Lower Costs More Transparency Act, which to date has failed to be included in so-called “must-pass” legislation (despite attempts to do so.) 

The bill had three admirable policy aims: mandate hospitals and group health plans publish their prices in a readable format; prevent hospitals from charging Medicare patients hospital rates for services performed in an outpatient setting; and try to rein in middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers with new regulations about transparency and their business practices. However, bipartisanship often means that twice as much deception is happening, and this is a perfect example of a cleverly named bill that has little to do what its title says.

To give credit to the bill’s intentions, more transparency in our health care system would be a good thing and would certainly lead to lower prices. No one individual seems to know the price of anything in the health care sector. Ask a health care provider and they will tell you, “Talk to your insurance.” But you shouldn’t have to spend hours jumping through hoops and sitting on the phone to figure out how much your MRI will cost.

But we should not expect more regulation to fix a health care system that is currently broken by overregulation. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

Republicans need to do better. We have to provide our own positive vision of what American health care should look like instead of tinkering at the margins; that starts with slashing regulations and government health care spending, not accepting it, and trying to make it more efficient.

We should not expect any proposed health care reforms to make a difference until patients start controlling their health care dollars, not employers or insurance middlemen. Imagine a world where you can pay affordable cash prices for health care goods and services and use your insurance when something unexpected happens. Until we realize that, we are just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

For example, my Healthcare Freedom Act should be a core component of a bold health care agenda and would make it easier for people to opt out of the current health care system. It makes health savings accounts (HSAs) more available and useful by greatly increasing their contribution limits. HSAs are triple tax-advantaged; the money contributed is with pre-tax dollars, the growth of the account is tax-free, and withdrawals are tax-free.

The Healthcare Freedom Act ensures more people will be able to access the innovative arrangement known as direct primary care. Direct primary care physicians decide to cut out the administrative nightmare of dealing with insurance companies and government programs. Direct primary care physicians charge a monthly fee ranging from $50-$150 for unlimited access. This dynamic allows patients to get much-needed preventive care for a fixed, known cost, instead of waiting months for an appointment just for your doctor to spend more time typing notes for insurance codes than actually talking and looking at you.  

Finally, under this legislation, employers can contribute to their employees’ health savings accounts, instead of the current incentives employers have to control a large chunk of people’s health care spending. And the focus of health care spending will finally be where it belongs: with the individual.

It is time the American people see our current health care system for what it is: a giant scam robbing them of their hard-earned money and medical freedom. Republicans need to stand and do something about it. Democrats enacted ObamaCare and the Inflation Reduction Act on razor-thin majorities because they knew how to make the most of the moment and they were willing to deal with the electoral consequences of doing so. Republicans can no longer afford to kick the can down the road and tinker around the edges of ObamaCare while the whole system falls apart and our fellow citizens suffer.

The time for excuses is over. The time for health care freedom is now. 

Chip Roy represents the 21st District of Texas.

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