Congress has given up the effort to reform health care for now, but in the meantime Senator Rand Paul and the Trump administration have accomplished a real win for many Americans who are struggling to afford health insurance. The Department of Labor announced last week that it had finalized a rule that will make it easier for people to purchase insurance by forming group associations that can have a membership which spans across state lines.
The rule also relaxes regulations on mandated benefits and plan structures that currently artificially increase the cost of plans for many people. This will provide opportunities for millions of Americans who are currently trapped in the individual health care market under the ObamaCare exchanges, or who work for a small business that cannot afford to provide health coverage.
This is a much-needed relief at a time when premium costs and deductibles continue to rise while the quality and choice in plans disappears.
Merely giving people a greater variety of government-approved insurance plans, however, is at best a short-term fix—something easily done via executive pen and phone while the Congress dallies. Senator Paul’s full health care proposal, which was almost entirely ignored in favor of Paul Ryan’s insurance-lobbyist-approved bill that was written behind closed doors last year, contains several important reforms that would strike at the real problem of access to health care—the costs.
The king among these reforms is letting people save their own money tax free into health savings accounts and use that money however they please—including to purchase whatever insurance they choose. This, in combination with eliminating many of ObamaCare’s regulations, would restore a market in health care where people could purchase the services and coverage that best suits them.
Taking out the middlemen and putting health care spending back into the hands of consumers and doctors would encourage doctors and hospitals to once again use transparent pricing and to compete for customers—practices that have mostly lain dormant for decades.
The fatal structural flaws in ObamaCare itself guarantee that the pressure to “do something” on health care will keep building. Instead of yet another patch aimed at subsidizing corporate and government insurance middlemen, Congress should work from the alternate approach that Senator Paul has set out and focus on giving control of health care back to where it should have rested all along—to patients and their doctors.
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