Let patients have the power, not bureaucrats

Commenting on the rapidly (and potentially unsustainable) increasing cost of insurance on the ObamaCare healthcare exchanges, Helaine Olen of Slate writes, “all too many ACA defenders turned into fanboys and fangirls, dismissing any issue raised against the law as inconsequential and exaggerated.” This may mark the point at which the left begins to see why conservatives and a majority of Americans disapprove of ObamaCare. It is also why despite President Obama and others proclaiming that ObamaCare is the “law of the land” and so “let’s move on,” this will not happen.

First, there is the cost. A week after the White House’s celebration of the King v. Burwell decision, insurance companies across the nation asked for rate increases of 20 to 60 percent. When asked, Obama suggested consumers pressure state regulators to deny the increases. As it turns out, at least in Oregon, the insurance commissioner actually made several companies raise premiums more than they asked and approved average rate increases of over 24 percent for all companies.

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Although rising premiums upset premium payers and taxpayers, for some ObamaCare apologists, rapidly increasing premiums is a positive. They argue that this is due to pent-up demand for healthcare. Unfortunately, as premiums increase, those who are not heavily subsidized are less likely to buy insurance. This means the younger and healthier people only buy insurance when they get older and sicker. This is what is happening. Can anyone say “insurance death spiral”?

Second and related to the above, the problems with ObamaCare extend beyond premium increases. Enrollment in the exchanges is lower than the Congressional Budget Office predicted. For example, enrollment in California’s exchange did not grow this past year. This in turn decreases cash flow to operate the exchanges. Now California has joined the list of states that are losing money running their state exchanges.

There are more problems than the above. Ezekiel Emanuel recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal that Accountable Care Organizations are unlikely to realize the predicted cost savings, pharmaceutical costs are skyrocketing and there are still 30 million Americans uninsured.

There is a solution to all the above. As novel as it sounds: Give patients the power, not bureaucrats.

Before the court’s decision, Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.), MD, and I introduced the Patient Freedom Act to replace ObamaCare with free-market alternatives. The Patient Freedom Act draws upon our experience as physicians, empowering patients to drive their own healthcare decisions. Our experience is that when the bureaucrat has the power, as they do in ObamaCare, the system lines up to serve the bureaucrat, but when the patient has the power, the system lines up to serve the patient. We want the patient to have the power.

During my time working in a government-run hospital for the uninsured and underinsured, I saw what we are now also seeing at VA hospitals: A system that puts bureaucrats first and patient care second.

Republicans must take advantage of this election year to continue to promote the healthcare proposals we have and are developing. Some Democrats are beginning to see the reality of the law; it’s up to conservatives to offer the American people a better future for healthcare in America — a future in which the patient has the power.

Cassidy, a physician, is Louisiana’s junior senator, serving since 2015. He sits on the Appropriations; the Energy and Natural Resources; the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; and the Veterans’ Affairs committees.