Rutecki: The peculiar future of American healthcare

Paul Rutecki, Staff Writer

One of the biggest promises made by Republican politicians during the 2016 election season was to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare.”  Now that Republicans have control of the presidency, House of Representatives and Senate, they have a chance to deliver on this promise.   

Obamacare is becoming more expensive and inconvenient for taxpayers to cover. In the 2008 Democratic primary, Barack Obama stated his famous claim, “If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it.”  However, the line he repeated over and over proved not to be true, and even became Time Magazine’s “Lie of the Year.”  If Obamacare is left untouched, healthcare premiums will increase 25 percent this year.

The financial burdens of this law have forced healthcare providers to leave the market.  For example, under Obamacare, the number of health insurance plans in Arizona dropped from 65 to four.

Currently, Republicans have proposed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), designed to repeal and replace Obamacare. While I believe this legislation will certainly be an improvement over Obamacare, I am skeptical whether it will provide the best free-market solution. Republicans have had the last eight years to craft an alternative to Obamacare, so voters have the right to expect a polished healthcare plan.  

Even though Republicans only unveiled the details of the AHCA recently, I believe its benefits will outweigh the risks once the final stages are complete.      

One positive feature of the AHCA is its removal of Obamacare individual mandate.  This provision required millions of Americans to purchase expensive plans that they did not want and cannot afford, hurting businesses and families. The Supreme Court’s approval of this provision in the 2012 case, National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius, sets a dangerous precedent as to what the government can force Americans to buy. The Commerce Clause of the Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce. However, Chief Justice John Roberts’ approval of the individual mandate in this case gives Congress the ability to tax the inactivity of buying health insurance, which is an extension of this power.       

Another benefit to the new Republican plan will be the be allowing health insurers to compete across state lines. By restoring competition to the healthcare marketplace, Americans will be able to select the plan that is best for them. This ability will greatly benefit states like Arizona that, as previously mentioned, have seen an extreme drop off in choices under Obamacare.            

My largest concern with the American Health Care Act is that it does not seem to guarantee that millions of Americans with Obamacare will not lose health insurance coverage.  The GOP website insists that millions of Americans will not lose health insurance and will have the option to purchase their existing insurance off of the exchanges, but a recent Congressional Budget Office report estimates that 28 million Americans that currently have Obamacare would lose coverage in the same year the AHCA is passed. This possibility is simply unacceptable. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has a responsibility to provide more evidence that these people can remain insured.  Once this issue is resolved, then I believe the GOP healthcare plan will be successful.    

The partisan debate about whether we should embrace Obamacare or a new, conservative approach like the AHCA hinges on the decision to have a limited or big government. While increasing the number of people with health insurance is a good thing, Obamacare makes people dependent on the government for their health care rather than supporting a private, non-government regulated market. The people in Arizona who saw their insurance options decline were more compelled to purchase expensive Obamacare plans that did not fit their needs.  

Government control of the health insurance industry helps create income redistribution, a hallmark of socialism. Income redistribution does not work; businesses are not able to keep as many jobs, which leads to rising national debt and a weaker American dollar.

Although the United States is by no means a perfect country, I support the limited government our Founding Fathers envisioned. The Bill of Rights and our other constitutional freedoms give Americans liberty, and the ability to dream big about the future.        

Although I am disappointed with the transparency of Republican leadership regarding the American Health Care Act, I believe Republicans will work out a solution that lowers premiums and raises quality, without kicking millions of people off their plans.  If Donald Trump has truly mastered what he calls “the art of the deal,” he will be able to work with Congress to formulate a healthcare plan that puts the American people in control, not the government.