When President Bill Clinton appointed his wife as healthcare reform czar, it marked the end both of figurehead first ladies and of bipartisan cooperation on medical policy. Democrats have learned little in the ensuing decades. From Obamacare being pushed through virtually without debate—remember “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it”?—to 2020 Democratic presidential candidates arguing among themselves about who has the most untenable big-government solution for Medicare, progressives keep finding ways to get in their own way.
The latest folly is the Left’s attempt to fix surprise medical bills. Rather than finding a solution that would actually fix the market and make it work it for everyone, they are again pushing a solution that can only work in their own minds and will further complicate the healthcare market.
This time it’s even worse, however, because they have a group of Republicans in Congress who are nervous about re-election after failing to reform healthcare when they were in the leadership.
Traditionally, polls have shown Americans favor Democrats over Republicans on the issue of healthcare. Despite failures like Barack Obama’s “If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor” lie, or the reality of skyrocketing premiums when lower costs were promised, this prejudice is unshaken.
The problem is that Democrats treat healthcare policy like an elementary school student council election: “I will give you more recess, desserts in the cafeteria, and everyone will get good grades.”
The reality is that healthcare is complicated and expensive—so when people are told it could be free, it is going to appeal to a large segment of the population.
It turns out, however, that fixing the problems with our healthcare system isn’t as simple as just giving it away for free. We need research. We need doctors. We need access. And each of these components costs money.
That part of the conversation is harder and serious attempts to address it don’t poll as well. But, when we have an issue like surprise medical bills, that everyone agrees are a serious concern, Congress needs to focus on these hard questions rather than dwelling inside their own imaginations and peddling rainbows.
Anyone can be caught by a surprise medical bill. No one plans for the car crash or expects that a hospital that takes their insurance has doctors who don’t take their insurance. Red-state Republicans and blue-state Democrats are hit with the charges that result when an out of network procedure or healthcare provider is used. It is a problem that can affect anyone.
Given that we know that Congress hates these tough conversations, we can look to models in states like New York that work and could actually be emulated if we forced Congress to take the time needed to do their jobs.
Instead, Democrats plan to fix surprise medical bills with calls for healthcare price controls. When opponents worry about how that will impact access, their concerns are ignored. Never mind that price controls will lead to rationing and patients being denied available care, what matters are the intentions. Never mind that when price controls have been put in place in every other industry, access has diminished.
When congressional colleagues, also concerned about this issue, offer alternatives using proven market-based strategies—like the New York solution to surprise medical billing—they are given no voice.
Progressives are determined to keep pushing false hope and they seem to keep falling into the same trap year after year. Evidently, their past failures aren’t reason enough to give them pause. Democrats are still fixated on their course of a unilateral big-government approach to healthcare and, therefore, bent on dragging all Americans down with them.
We don’t need to give more power to insurance companies and big government—we need to find a way to make the market work.