The Pelican Institute recently participated in Healthcare Solutions Week, an opportunity for people of all political persuasions (and none at all) to discuss how to properly address the United States’ ongoing healthcare issues. This is an issue we feel most keenly here in Louisiana—with our ranking in most healthcare categories near the worst in the union. We rank among the most obese states, among the worst states for rural healthcare, and among the states with highest percentages for uninsured residents. There were hopes that these issues and others would be addressed by the Affordable Care Act, but this has not proven to be the case.
Although the ACA may have been designed by well-intended policymakers, it has failed to achieve its goals. For example, one of the methods through which they hoped to expand healthcare insurance coverage was through Medicaid and the exchanges. Both of these have turned out to be much more expensive than originally planned. Healthcare Solutions Week is about finding a way to both boost coverage and decrease costs—with both sides of that coin being vital.
The ACA also compelled insurance companies to offer coverage to all comers. This was billed as a panacea for many of the problems with healthcare coverage, but it led to unintended consequences. These consequences include greater costs for the companies and higher premiums for the customers. It also made the individual mandate necessary, which was by far the most unpopular portion of the ACA. According to a recent ABC News Poll, more than sixty-five percent of people are opposed to the individual mandate. A number of polls have found over 50% of people viewing the ACA unfavorably. These facts alone are good reason to take another look at existing healthcare policy.
Regulating and subsidizing insurance plans was intended to curb costs of existing plans, but the reality of this policy was that insurance companies cut their reimbursements to providers. This has led a growing number of doctors, providers, and healthcare centers to no longer accept those plans. Those subsidies have come with real long-term costs as well. The rising costs for taxpayers created a well-spring of opposition to the ACA, and some former supporters are questioning whether the costs are worth it.
Consumer choice and competition in the insurance industry was hampered by ACA requirements on what plans had to cover, leading to millions of plan cancellations nationwide. This includes more than 92,000 plans scheduled for cancellation in Louisiana. It also led to rising costs for plans that had been affordable, harming the low-income individuals the ACA was designed to help. Insurance providers in Louisiana have just announced they are raising premiums for policies sold under the auspices of the ACA by, on average, double digit percentages. The ACA is not the right solution for our healthcare woes in Louisiana.
Healthcare Solutions Week is about finding solutions that emphasize patient-centered healthcare reform. This means allowing individuals and patients to control their own health care. More consumer choice (instead of mandates), greater competition in insurance markets, and addressing rising costs through deregulation should be features of future reforms.
It is time to implement alternatives to the status quo in healthcare. No, that doesn’t mean “alternative medicine” like you see on late night infomercials. It means concrete solutions that incorporate market forces and decrease public costs while increasing coverage. This will allow us to move past the politics of healthcare and instead focus on the solutions.
Trent Hill is a media consultant, a graduate of Louisiana State University and lifelong resident of the Pelican State