GUEST COLUMN: Owen Hill offers steps to a better health care system

May 2, 2017 by Owen Hill. Column originally appeared in The Gazette. 

Americans need and deserve a better health care system, and voters elected Republicans to do just this. Sadly, the conversation has become about the poll-tested cliché of “Replace and Repeal” that only points to the problem of Obamacare and not to the solution. If Republicans want to maintain their leadership in Congress and the Senate in 2018, we need to get past political posturing, cast a greater vision for the future of health care, and deliver real results. So, what can be done?

First, let’s stop pretending that a little more or less of the same broken system is what Americans are expecting. The system is a disaster, and it is ruining our nation and our politics; and the problem starts where government has gotten involved. By giving corporations an advantage in providing health care decades ago, we have shackled your health insurance to your job. Republicans can fix this by giving everyone the same tax breaks that corporations currently get.

Second, let’s stop pretending government can actually create the future of health care. Thousands of doctors, entrepreneurs, investors, nurses, first responders, scientists, and others have great ideas, boundless energy, and the will to succeed. Government can enable this or it can impede it. Right now it is impeding. Republicans can fix this by taking away the restrictions on what kind of care you can buy and where you can buy it. The individual mandate? It needs to go. And the restrictive, wasteful government-run exchanges? Repeal, don’t replace.

Third, let’s unleash a revolution in health care. The same doctors, entrepreneurs, and others who have the ideas can become the next success stories. While others have created smartphones, made flying cheap, invented computers, and pioneered new ways for us to pay each other, medical innovation has stagnated. Every week in the Senate I vote ‘no’ on some new bill which would limit access and innovation in health care. Republicans can fix this by wiping these restrictive laws off the books.

What will not fix the problem, however, is a more-of-the-same approach – such as passing the buck to the states, by attempting to “fix” the problem through offering state waivers instead of dismantling the federally imposed edifice. Democratic governors, in states like Colorado which expanded Medicaid, are not going to utilize the waivers; the proposal that is currently floating around Washington will not, therefore, do anything to help Colorado. Nor will it work to bring system costs down around the rest of the nation, as we will be left with key, costly elements of Obamacare left intact in several states. This is not leadership – it is putting the full weight of a federal failure onto the shoulders of the states. This was a problem created by the federal government, and it needs a federal solution before we can effectively begin to return control over health policy back to the states where it belongs.

We trust people to eat what they want, spend their money they way they want, watch the movies they want, drive the cars they want and pick the career they want; we should start trusting them to make health care decisions without government interference. The current proposals in Congress are barely a Band-Aid. Our Republican Congressmen, and others who value individual freedoms and practical solutions, should work deliberately and diligently on an effective and complete repeal of Obamacare and the many other laws causing cancer to our health-care system.