Reforming health care, again

website - zachary toillionBy Zachary Toillion

Rep. Paul Ryan releases a budget yearly aimed at tackling our national debt and deficit. Seeing that healthcare is the biggest long term driver of our deficit, Ryan has routinely made that the centerpiece of his plan for debt reduction.

Ryan is largely correct, health care costs have consistently been increasing for decades. Ryan is completely wrong on it adding to the federal debt. Medicare is funded through payroll taxes, not by the traditional coffers that fund government expenditures. However, the rate of increase in health care spending if untouched could need additional funding.

We have insurance regulators in all 50 states and our numerous territories-equipped with offices, staffs, and budgets just to make sure people aren’t being taken advantage of by private health care. America needs a fully functional government system.

With the Affordable Care Act, we now subsidize the coverage of most of the country, but at rates that are artificially high due to the nature of the system. Spending on federal employees, tax deductions, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as programs like SCHIP, COBRA, and Tricare all make up this patchwork system. The government is already fitting the bill for a completely government run system, but without the universal coverage.

Government plans like Medicare are just more cost effective. Medicare has had a consistent overhead cost of about 5 percent while private plans have as much as 35 percent in overhead. A government system would also have a check on its spending with Congress holding the power of the purse. The adoption of such a plan would be good for businesses, who would no longer have to worry about offering coverage, bringing them to parity with overseas competitors who have already adopted such a system. Employees could make work decisions without worrying about whether or not healthcare was a part of the package.

Unfortunately, the adoption of such a plan would be difficult. For every legislator in Washington there are six lobbyists from the healthcare sector – the second largest contributor to campaigns after the financial services industry. Additionally, the healthcare sector is responsible for a big chunk of cable news profits through advertising, and it would be detrimental for that resource to dry up for the news networks of the world.

The fact of the matter is the ACA is a seriously flawed system. It strengthens private insurers, and has essentially created two Americas. In traditionally “red states” Medicaid has not been expanded, and federally run exchanges have taken the place of state exchanges. “Blue states” have state exchanges up and running, and have expanded Medicaid. The law has made huge strides in guaranteeing coverage, but it is still not universal. Continued litigation, and congressional efforts to repeal the ACA have threatened the law’s viability since before it was even implemented.

The US simply needs to adopt a plan that makes more sense. We know government run plans can work – Medicare is beloved by seniors, and most of the industrialized world have a government-run system by varying degrees. Adopting a system that saves money as well as lives just makes sense.

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