The Affordable Care Act is becoming unaffordable for many of the people who need it most. The response, probably from the next Congress and administration, needs to be determining what is wrong and fixing it – seriously, substantively and in a way that finally takes appropriate notice of all the issues.
That will require Democrats and Republicans to compromise and, for those who don’t see that idea as treasonous, there are plenty of places to begin. Start with keeping the best parts of the law: providing coverage to the uninsured; no annual or lifetime limits on health care; insurance companies can’t drop subscribers because they become too sick; pre-existing conditions are covered; children can stay on their parents’ plan up to age 26.
Benefits such as these are real and valuable. No elected official should want to take them away, for reasons of policy and political survival. But with premiums for midlevel policies ballooning an average of 25 percent next year, and with fewer companies offering coverage in some states, the law is clearly not working as intended.
Health care is as real an issue as crime or education. The costs of medical care have long been the No. 1 cause of bankruptcy in the United States. People suffer when they lack good medical care and taxpayers often foot the bill, anyway. Those are real problems – not Republican or Democratic, but national issues that deserve the focused attention of the federal government.
But the law that passed in 2010 was hobbled by politics, including greed among some Democrats and a refusal to participate by Republicans, in general. The prospects of a bipartisan reboot may seem remote, but we presume no one wants to be a part of simply taking health insurance away from millions of Americans. That opens a door for Republicans to help make a better law.
For example, their policy wish list has long included lawsuit reform, which is necessary and could help lower the costs of insurance generally. Democrats won’t want to go there, but they also don’t want to live with 25 percent increases in premiums. It’s called compromise.
In the end, the goal must be to restrain the costs of health care while delivering it to all Americans. That should be a worthy goal for any legislator of any party.