“Repeal” and “replace” are the new buzzwords, with no signs of being bumped from the headlines anytime soon. Since the 2016 election, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been in the crosshairs of the Republican-controlled Congress and Donald Trump. The vow to repeal and replace the ACA was a keystone campaign promise that tapped into the frustration of many Americans hit with skyrocketing healthcare premiums and limited plan options. While “repeal” will be fairly straightforward, what will “replace” actually entail? More importantly, in an effort to wrest control of healthcare from the federal government and return it to individual Americans, what should it entail?
The key to successful healthcare reform for millions of Americans impacted by Obamacare lies in individual empowerment and control over their own healthcare choices. These principles will provide the surest path to affordable, quality healthcare at competitive prices. Empowerment and control are exemplified in three broad ideas that Congress and the White House should employ as they work through the details of a new healthcare law.
First and foremost, the individual mandate of the ACA, that portion of the law which forced individuals to buy a one-size-fits-all health insurance plan or face financial penalty, should be eliminated. Without the mandate, individuals would be free to purchase health insurance that aligns to their own needs. This would mean a simple catastrophic coverage plan for a young adult or a more standard plan for a middle-aged adult or family. It would also mean that the “voluntarily uninsured,” a sub-set of the uninsured population who choose not to purchase health insurance, could remain so without facing a stiff financial penalty.
Closely tied to the ability of individuals to tailor their own coverage is opening the sale of health insurance to interstate commerce. This step toward empowerment and control would allow individuals to shop for health insurance across state lines, leveraging greater plan choice, lower costs, and increased competition among insurers. While a longer-term effort, this measure would signal insurers as to the type of coverages desired by individual Americans, allowing the industry to adapt to meet consumer demand at competitive prices.
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