Healthcare is once again a big issue in the presidential campaign of 2020. It ranks near or at the top of the list of concerns for most voters.
Democrats are pushing extreme changes such as Medicare for All, a single-payer socialized medicine model. Those who have backed away from this extreme want to double-down on the failed ObamaCare system. What are Republicans offering?
President Trump has made significant improvements in ObamaCare by offering short-term, limited duration plans at lower cost than the exchange plans and by allowing the formation of association health plans. He has also eliminated the dreaded Individual Mandate that forced Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty tax. He is making improvements to Medicaid by giving states more flexibility to design their own plans with block-grants. (Trump Improving Medicaid) But is all this enough?
Former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal thinks there is more that can be done. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Jindal identifies the biggest concerns for most Americans when it comes to healthcare. He says most people like their health insurance as it is except for:
- High out-of-pocket drug prices
- High Deductibles
- Surprise Hospital bills
The solution is to provide what Americans really want: lower prices with minimal disruption.
To accomplish these goals, Jindal has a three-step plan:
- Lower drug prices
- Protect patients from surprise costs
- Price transparency
Lower Drug Prices
Everyone knows Americans pay more for their drugs than most countries around the world. Many of these nations have national health systems (socialized medicine) whereby governments negotiate with drug companies directly to set prices. Democrats have responded by calling for more government intervention, either through price controls or threatening drug patents. Drug makers respond by saying such heavy-handed measures stymie drug innovation which leads to poorer health outcomes, lowered quality of life and more health costs. There is some validity to the arguments on both sides. (see Cancer Survival Best in the U.S.)
Republican efforts to address this problem have included speeding up approvals of generic drugs, limiting evergreen patent abuses, making it easier for generic companies to get product samples, and cracking down on anticompetitive agreements between brand and generic companies. Recent bills introduced in Congress would limit drug prices for products developed with federally funded research.
President Trump has recently gone further by insisting that America no longer bear a disproportionate share of drug research and development costs. He is pushing NATO to pay more toward their own defense and defending American tech companies from European tax schemes. Jindal says he should fight for the same equity in healthcare spending through trade agreements, international rules and direct negotiations.
Protect Patients From Surprise Costs
Many patients experience surprise medical costs when they use emergency medical providers like ambulances, emergency room doctors, and anesthesiologists who are out-of-network providers even though the hospital they used was in network. Today there are bipartisan bills in Congress to address this problem. Republicans should work together to find the right balance between broadening networks and arbitration to solve this issue.
President Trump is already on record for pushing more price transparency in medicine. This is especially needed in hospitals and drug makers, who traditionally have obscured the true cost of their treatments from the public. Jindal explains: “HHS aims to empower consumers to improve the drug marketplace. Price transparency would allow consumers to shop intelligently with no surprise charges and force providers to offer competitive pricing that is generally the same for each consumer.”
If Republicans can accomplish these three goals, and voters can actually see these positive improvements in their healthcare, they can win the debate over improving healthcare in the next election. If they fail, voters may make the foolish choice to believe the Democratic solutions actually make sense.