Americans find themselves at a crossroads for the future of healthcare in the US. While a legal guarantee of health insurance for everyone may comfort some Americans, laws cannot ensure the existence of a functioning health insurance market. For any system to work long-term, it must rest upon a firm and sustainable financial foundation. Today’s system is unsustainable: consuming large amounts of funds while continuing to collapse.
Many political liberals and news outlets paint Republicans’ efforts to fix healthcare as morally akin to robbing people. But is this the case? One misconception is that Senate Republicans are leaving 22 million needy Americans without insurance. This figure comes from a report issued by the Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”) which estimates the impact of the Senate’s proposed bill. However, the report further explains that 15 million of the 22 million would choose to become uninsured within a year of the removal of the individual mandate penalty. Many of these are individuals who can currently afford healthcare, but would rather not pay for it.
A second misconception is the accuracy of the CBO’s figures themselves. Contrary to what Democrats and the media want Americans to believe, nothing guarantees the accuracy of the CBO’s estimates. For example, the CBO originally overestimated the enrollment figures for the Affordable Care Act itself by 100%. A CNN article stated:
“When the law originally passed in 2010, it estimated 21 million would gain coverage through them in 2016….That didn’t happen. About 10.4 million were actually enrolled last year, according to the Department of Health & Human Services data.”
While no one should envy the CBO’s task of predicting the future, we need to remember that these numbers are only estimates.
Finally, a third misconception is that any restructuring of Medicaid threatens the poor and needy, when in fact Republicans’ current efforts would refocus Medicaid’s towards some of our most vulnerable citizens: poor children and women, the elderly and the disabled. Rather than focusing more funds towards these groups, the Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid to include low-income adults and gave them disproportionate funding. The Wall Street Journal notes that this results in a “funding formula that doesn’t encourage states to prioritize the neediest Americans.” The Senate Bill attempts to remove this backwards funding formula and refocus Medicaid towards its traditional beneficiaries.
Americans are extremely generous and often demonstrate a keen sensitivity to the needs of their fellow citizens. They are also capable of making sound decisions when given all the facts. While the Republican proposal may be far from perfect, at least it attempts to correct the structure of healthcare. Undoubtedly, there are people who would be negatively impacted by the passage of the Republican proposal. But people are and will continue to be negatively impacted by our current system. As difficult as any path forward may look now, inactivity at this critical moment may prove the most dangerous path to follow.