Health care – the continuing challenge

Published 12:54 pm Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Last week, Governor Northam chose to veto a bill that would have helped many households that have been saddled by higher insurance premiums and higher deductibles since the passage of “Obamacare”. His veto came because he has been misled into believing that this bill would do harm to the expansion of Medicaid, which passed under him in his first year as governor. This is his second year of vetoing bills that better serve the public.

If one steps back to a few years ago, one can see the disastrous curve “Obamacare” has created for our health care system. Already ailing, the financial projection of health care has become much worse since it was passed. We have seen cost shifts because the federal regulation requires that policies include coverage that is unwanted and often of no use. Instead of having policies based on age and healthy living, every policy must cover everything. The most egregious is couples in their 50s and 60s who must have maternity coverage. The goal with this type of silliness is to spread the cost of others to those who cannot possibly use a particular service. As these “benefits” rise, the cost of policies rise, forcing the public into policies that have higher deductibles. Few can now afford a family insurance policy; forcing families to join government exchanges which have high deductibles.

Seeing health care spiraling out of control, Republican members of the Virginia General Assembly have tried to address some of the issues. We based that plan on the question of why should insurance be higher for some groups than larger companies. Currently, the most expensive policies are those that are sold to small businesses. Those businesses are caught between having to compete for employees with larger companies while maintaining a competitive place in the market.

The vetoed bill would have allowed small businesses to join larger organizations such as the Virginia Chamber of Commerce or some other trade organization that would allow those small businesses to negotiate policies at rates similar to large business.

The Governor seems to have developed the mentality of the Democrats in Washington — that government knows what’s better for you and your family than you do. This is despite the evidence that we have seen in most health care decisions that come out of Washington.

It hasn’t worked in the Veteran’s Administration, where the socialized model is a failure in both cost and delivery of services. Just ask our veterans. From broken systems to indifferent bureaucrats, the V.A. system creaks and groans, and always has.

It hasn’t worked with Medicaid, which is a financially unsustainable program initially designed to help the nation’s poor, yet now covers a staggering 75 million citizens or others living in America. This includes many new enrollments signed up through “Obamacare”. While states and the federal government split the cost of the program, Medicaid has now grown to nearly 25 percent of state budgets, imperiling other state needs such as education. In addition, the Government Accountability Office reports that $60 billion, or roughly 10 percent of Medicaid’s budget, is lost to fraud and abuse (others think it is much more). As well, the delivery of service is shrinking rapidly as nearly one-third of doctors refuse to take Medicaid patients because of its unrealistic payment schedule.

Nor does it work in Medicare, where the average lifetime contributions paid through taxes only cover about 40 percent of the average recipient’s medical expenditures once in the Medicare system. This in spite of two decades of reforms and price controls on doctors, hospitals and medical providers. Meanwhile, Medicare continues on an unsustainable trend line toward insolvency. According to an analyst report, the program will be insolvent by 2026 which will require limiting services or massive tax hikes.

The question is simple: Why can’t we try freedom and personal choice, doing what we know works best?

Now is the time to reclaim innovation and turn to the marketplace, allowing citizens and their employers the option to manage their health requirements, tailored to their own needs. If re-elected to serve the people, I will continue to push for policy that helps families and small businesses.

Frank Ruff represents Charlotte in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@