This week begins one of the great sporting events in America — college basketball’s March Madness. In addition to the tremendous spectacle and emotional roller coaster this annual journey provides, it is also layered with lessons that can be applied to our national political leaders. I realize associating madness and politicians seems too easy a target these days — but let’s indulge in a simple application of one March Madness principle to our nation’s current health care challenges.
Legendary coach John Wooden won more NCAA basketball championships than any coach in history. More importantly, he taught principles and lessons. I remember my dad regularly quoting a coach Wooden classic: “If you don’t have time to do the job right, when will you have time to do it over?” He usually shared this quote on Saturday mornings when my siblings and I were doing less than stellar work while rushing to finish our assigned jobs for the day.
In 2009, Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. They had their vision for health care reform and decided not to take their case to the American people, nor to engage in a real debate and amendment process within Congress. Instead, they chose to ram through a 2,300-plus-page bill, which few had read and even fewer understood. Republican challenges to the legislation led to Nancy Pelosi’s famous response, “We have to pass the bill so we can find out what is in it.”
Democrats didn’t have time to do health care right, and after eight years of failed rollouts, a steady string of broken promises, millions of dollars wasted, skyrocketing premiums and ridiculous deductibles for hardworking Americans, it seems to be time to do it over.
Republicans now control Congress and the presidency. It appears that they are more interested in getting something done than doing it right. With the same strategy and tactics they criticized their Democratic counterparts for deploying eight years ago, congressional Republicans seem ready to ram through their vision of health care reform.
Republicans may have discovered the secret for getting people to like something they hate — by giving them something worse. For my children, the hated broccoli suddenly didn’t seem so bad when Brussels sprouts became the alternative. The GOP-led Congress is in such a rush to put something on the table, half-baked and poorly prepared, that it is making Obamacare, with all its problems, seem not quite so bad.
Sadly, when neither party is interested in doing the job right, it is the American people who pay the price when it has to be done over. Usually it is the poor and most vulnerable who are hardest hit by Congress’ lack of commitment to do things right.
The path to victory and better health care for Americans starts by realizing that Obamacare is going to end, whether by repeal or collapsing under its own weight. Repealing Obamacare with the proper glide path is the first step. That would give the GOP a promise kept, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of a real conversation about the future of the nation’s health care system.
Once the glide path is set, Americans should demand that their elected officials do what they were elected to do — debate, amend and vote on legislation. I think all members should be locked on the floor of their respective chambers where they can make their case and vote on what comes next for health care — for all to see.
There is clearly bipartisan agreement on many of the provisions of Obamacare that should be part of the future of American health care. Two easy places to start are (1) allowing children to stay on their parent’s insurance until they are 26 years old, and (2) dealing with pre-existing conditions.
Washington rarely cleans up its own messes when it comes to the “doing it over” department. Rather than debating in the media whether the new health care bill should be called “Trumpcare” or “Ryancare,” Congress should center the conversation on care starting at the state level. I trust the state of Utah to strike the right balance of compassion, control and accountability for the unique health care requirements and needs of Utahns more than I do anyone in Washington.
Under the Trump administration a number of Democrats have also become more interested in federalism. Begin by empowering the states to drive health care dollars and decisions to the people. Congress could also start sending Medicaid dollars to the states without the customary cables and strings attached. There are a host of other measures that can increase portability, decrease cost, create better health care outcomes, and ensure the needs of the most vulnerable among us are met.
If Congress really wants to do health care right, it will avoid comprehensive bills and the perennial behind-closed-doors meetings followed by a cry that “the buzzer is about to sound so we have to vote on the bill as is without debate or amendments.” Congress could leave the madness to the NCAA and instead follow coach Wooden and do health care right, so we won’t have to make time to do it over later.
Boyd C. Matheson is president of Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank that advocates for a free market economy, civil society and community-driven solutions.