We learned details this week of new proposals to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The ink is still drying on these proposals yet the media and other status quo pundits are quickly giving us their doom-and-gloom prophesies of what’s in store for us if they become law. Less will be reported about what happens if nothing happens and we’re left with the status quo.
The Affordable Care Act didn’t deliver on promises of better health care at a lower cost for all Americans. Ask this question presidential candidate Ronald Reagan asked voters in 1980: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Many asked this question will say no. Closer to home, my wife and I pay 71 percent more for health insurance than we did four years earlier.
Some Americans, poor and rich, did very well with the ACA and, for them, no changes are necessary. But for the rest of us, when things in our lives don’t work, we want changes for something better. Repealing and replacing the ACA is pursuing something better, such as affordability.
Several changes are needed to achieve affordability, something the ACA failed to deliver. Affordability requires we have greater choice and there’s greater competition among health care providers for our “business.” Yes, this is business and the sooner we embrace this mindset, the better we’ll be.
Affordability is best accomplished by restoring time-tested capitalism to our health care and health insurance industries. Cutting government red tape also helps. Let’s allow the natural and powerful free-market forces of supply and demand to do their good work. American consumerism will do the rest to tame an out-of-control medical cost beast, not some mandate-driven and government-controlled national health care system.
Changes must improve our ability to shop and get answers in advance of how much medical procedures cost, just like we now do when shopping for a new car, pair of shoes or the latest iPhone. Have you ever tried finding out how much a medical procedure costs before having it done? I’m not talking about your $25 or $50 co-pay but the total cost since this is the amount we’re directly or indirectly paying.
Years ago, my wife had an appointment with her new physician. At the end of her visit, she wanted to pay how much she owed. We had, and still have, a high-deductible health insurance plan so we must clear our big annual deductible before our policy starts paying. The receptionist couldn’t tell my wife how much she owed until our insurance company was billed. I had a similar experience recently when “shopping” for a colonoscopy.
Again, we wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes not knowing their cost. And, if we thought the price of these shoes was too much, we’d continue shopping until we found a good price and buy them there. The good price benefit of consumerism can’t be achieved without answers to the how much question. We must also have a strong incentive to shop, compare and save.
Ask the “how much” question the next time you have a doctor’s appointment. Experience firsthand how answers to this straightforward question are generally evasive or slippery.
Repealing and replacing the ACA with something better requires time-tested American capitalism. A socialized national health care system ridden with bureaucracy, excessive regulatory red-tape and mandates won’t work.
The latest proposals make this health care consumer hopeful and give him a sigh of relief that our political leaders understand this and will deliver something better.
Edward Joseph Pierini Jr. is a CPA in private practice in Sacramento. He is a fourth-generation native of Sacramento and a fourth-generation Sacramento small-business owner who currently pays $1,464 per month for health insurance with an annual deductible of $4,800 each for him and his wife. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.