HUNTER: The GOP Needs To Learn There Are No Quick Fixes For Health Care

Shutterstock image via user Gorodenkoff

Derek Hunter Contributor
Font Size:

There is no silver bullet to fix health care. That’s a truth politicians don’t like to admit and many Americans aren’t open to accepting. Politicians promise they have the key to saving money and making the system work better. They do not. The sooner people realize government is, in fact, a large part of the problem, the better the chances are for making things better.

Government first became involved in health care when, during the wage and price controls of World War II, health insurance was presented as a way to offer higher compensation without violating the law. This effectively married employment to insurance.

Through the tax code and government-run programs for the elderly, poor and others, government involvement in this important individual and intensely personal aspect of life has become an accepted intrusion to the point it’s not thought of as an intrusion anymore.

When Obamacare came along, it was the natural next step in the plan to control all American health care. It’s not the final step, but for government control to be accepted by a majority of the public, it must be done incrementally. Since single-payer is only one or two steps away, it’s more important than ever for Republicans to have a plan not only to stop it, but to roll back the advances already made. That’s where Republicans are awful.

When it comes to health care, Republicans have a history of cowardice. Having worked as a health policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, I’ve briefed congressmen on the issue and know it’s one they address reluctantly. They view it as a “Democrat issue,” one they continually play defense on.

That attitude has been great for Democrats — they offer big “solutions,” Republicans counter with smaller options. Once Republicans counter a liberal plan the concept that government should be involved has been agreed to. If the argument is between someone offering a dollar and someone offering two dollars, why not side with the person offering two? Once you accept government should be giving out money, there’s no rational argument for supporting the person offering less.

That’s why Republicans have to go big, pitch and actually sell liberty to the public. It’s not hard, it is the concept on which the country was founded, after all. They need to explain how government has perverted the market, artificially increasing prices. Government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem. Tweaks won’t fix anything.

Still, the desire to “do something” has the White House scrambling for anything they can claim as a victory. Can’t blame them, really. President Trump ran on repealing and replacing Obamacare and, were it not for John McCain, he would have. In a way, McCain’s spite-vote saved Republicans from owning the issue. Their replacement plan would’ve only delayed the inevitable collapse government involvement brings.

In search of a victory, the Trump administration is looking to mess with prescription drug costs for seniors.

For reasons too complicated to address here, prescription drug programs in all insurance plans are negotiated by “pharmacy benefits managers.” The PBMs negotiate the best price possible and receive a “rebate” on the cost of drugs. The rebates come from manufacturers who are incentivized to offer their best price to be included in a particular plan.

The Trump administration has proposed eliminating rebates under the assumption those “savings” will be passed on to consumers. But there’s no reason to think they will; drug manufacturers will likely just pocket it.

What is known is that premiums for Medicare prescription drug insurance “could jump 19 percent” next year under this rule change. Some individuals with exceedingly high drug costs could see savings, but everyone will see premium spikes. Seniors on fixed incomes would have difficulty, and taxpayers would take a hit as well. By some estimates, the government’s costs would rise “by an average of $20 billion a year through 2029, or $200 billion in all.” As is always the case when government tweak the edges, things get worse and liberals have more ammunition for a complete takeover.

If Republicans really want to fend off a government takeover of health care they need to make a forceful case for big changes and individual responsibility. Most importantly, they need to stop being afraid of the issue — and quit tinkering around the edges for what they think will be quick, easy fixes, because there are none.

Derek Hunter is a contributing editor for The Daily Caller, author of “Outrage, INC: How the Liberal Mob Ruined Science, Journalism, and Hollywood,” and host of “The Daily Daily Caller Podcast.”

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.