Republicans Have Health Insurance Amnesia

Health Care CostsThe main stream media has been very focused recently on various aspects of the Affordable Care Act (affectionately known as Obamacare). While the problems are legitimate the sudden concern from the right over the cost of premiums and paying for more than you need seem disingenuous.

Thanks to the ACA millions more Americans will have health insurance. For some that means an increase in their premium for others it means a reduction. But our system before the ACA wasn’t any better. From 1999 to 2009 the cost of health insurance premiums rose 131%. And while a rise in premiums under the ACA helped to cover an additional 20 million Americans the prior 131% increase left around 7 million more American uninsured than before.

If large increases in cost are a big concern we should also expect some congressional action on the cost of gas which rose around 140% from 1999 to 2008, over the past 35 years CEO pay has risen by 725%, and the cost of a private college education has increased by 128% over the past 30 years which is a heavy lift for many considering that over the past 40 years the number of jobs requiring a college degree went from 26% to a whopping 60%.

Much has also been made of the president’s statement that if you like your policy you can keep it. Certainly insurance companies have decided to drop plans and increase their profit but it should be noted that only 17% of Americans in the individual market maintain their policy for more than 2 years. While the media has made it sound unprecedented and catastrophic the reality is that very few people would retain their current policy for more than a couple years anyway. Of course the previous system wasn’t necessarily any better. Insurance companies were found to drop policies of sick individuals to boost profits. At least under the ACA these people cannot be denied insurance as they were under the old system.

Yet another complaint is that people are paying for services they will not use or do not want. But this has been happening in the free market for years. Your cable provider doesn’t let you pick and choose which channels you want. They offer a package and you end up paying for a bunch of channels you do not want and never use. When you purchase a car there is a list of “included features”. Whether you want them or not they are included and you pay for them. If you purchase a computer it comes installed with programs you may not want. It doesn’t matter if you use them or not the cost of these programs are still included in your purchase.

Of course these complaints all rest on the case that the government is forcing you to buy something you do not want however Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation found that there is no real enforcement mechanism for the individual mandate. If you don’t want to pay the penalty, it turns out there isn’t very much the IRS can do to force you to do so.

The one thing you certainly won’t hear the main stream media talking about is the Republican solutions to fix these problems. Their only real offer so far is a complete repeal but is anyone happy with the fact that as a nation we spend twice as much as on health care as every other country in the world and get worse results? Are we really OK with having millions of people without insurance because they have a preexisting condition? Do we really want the most important statistic about our insurance industry to be the earnings per share? Does anyone actually believe the old system was the best we can do?

For as much as Republicans dislike the ACA it should be noted that this was not the system Democrats supported either. Democrats favored a single payer plan. The ACA was a compromise that many on the left were willing to stomach due the myriad of problems with the private based system. So if Republicans want a full repeal, many Democrats would be happy to oblige. All they would ask in return is a few Republican votes in the House and the Senate to put all of the problems with the ACA behind us and join the rest of the world by insuring all citizens.

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