How Republicans Can Tackle Obamacare Reform In 2018

Robert Donachie | Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said Saturday evening that there are at least four things Republicans can do to chip away at Obamacare in 2018, even if the party decides not to move forward with another repeal and replace effort.

House and Senate Republicans spent 2017 repeatedly trying to overhaul Obamacare, former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, but failed to successfully pass a repeal bill in the upper chamber. The party is not prioritizing an Obamacare repeal this year, according to Senate leadership, opting to push for policy areas that are likely to get bipartisan support in Congress, like infrastructure.

Not all Republicans have given up on reforming the American health care system in 2018. Blackburn offered a number of reform initiatives Republicans could take up this year to help improve the experiences of patients across the nation.

1) Sell Insurance Across State Lines 

“I would start with the across state lines purchase of health insurance. This is something I’ve worked on since 2008,” Blackburn said Saturday at a Koch-affiliated Network Seminar in Palm Springs.

Blackburn is one of a handful of politicians that is present at the 2018 Koch Network Seminar in Palm Springs, a gathering of over 500 major Koch donors and members of the Koch’s various grassroots projects around the nation.

Blackburn has pushed for selling insurance across state lines ever since Congress passed Obamacare in 2010. The Tennessee representative argues that allowing people to purchase health insurance across state lines forces insurance companies to compete for patients, which works to lower rates through market competition.

There is a fair amount of disagreement as to whether or not selling insurance across state lines would actually work to lower rates for consumers. The argument against Blackburn’s proposal is that regulations, demographics and state laws would work to mitigate any of the perceived benefits competition would bring to the market.

2) Expand Health Savings (HSA) Accounts 

Blackburn, like many Republicans, argues that expanding health savings accounts (HSAs) would help lower health care costs for the system and for the individual. HSAs allow people to set aside pre-tax income for qualified health care services. That money can then be used to spend on specific, tailored medical services.

Essentially, the idea behind HSAs is to lower the consumer’s insurance premiums and use the savings to pay for needed medical expenses.

3) Making HSAs Available To Seniors

“Making HSA’s available for seniors that are still working,” Blackburn said. “A lot of people are working till they are 72,” so expanding HSAs for elderly Americans might also be a step towards making a more efficient, effective health care system.

Americans under the age of 65-years-old can have an HSA account, but they cannot add money to the account if they take Medicare. Expanding HSAs to seniors, Blackburn argues, would allow seniors to save money and use that money on the health care services they need most.

4) Using Health Care Technology 

One area Blackburn would like her colleagues to focus on would be helping expand the use of technology in the health care sector. Specifically, Blackburn says Congress could help make it easier for entities within the health care sector to use technology to triage patients and get them the best, most effective care they can get.

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