For much of the past 7 years, patient-centered healthcare advocates have been united in opposition to Obamacare. Not just the law itself, but the damage it has inflicted on our health care system, the chaos it has sown in our insurance markets and the suffering it has caused in the lives of millions of Americans. But we have not put as much time into articulating to the American people what we are for.
Opposing Obamacare is easy. The facts and broken promises speak for themselves.
Obamacare was supposed to lower premiums, increase choices and be embraced by the American people. In reality, premiums have skyrocketed, choices have disappeared, insurance markets have crumbled and 6.5 million Americans — including more than 78,000 Utahns — have paid a penalty to the IRS instead of buying an unaffordable product that doesn’t meet their needs.
Here in the Beehive State, 13 counties have only one insurer offering insurance plans on the exchanges, and premiums have increased on average $1,920 since 2013. That’s real money — $160 every month — that Utah families no longer have for day-to-day essentials, like groceries and mortgage payments, or for long-term investments, like saving for college, a vacation or retirement.
By its very own standards, the so-called Affordable Care Act has failed.
The real work — and the real test of leadership — begins the moment when the question is no longer what you’re against, but what you’re for.
For those of us who believe in a patient-centered health care system, that moment fully arrived last November. For the first time since Obamacare had gone into effect, the American people elected a president and a Congress committed to its repeal and to moving in a better direction.
President Trump wasted no time explaining to the American people what kind of health care system we are for. Within weeks of taking the oath of office, the president stood before the Congress and the country to lay out a positive vision for affordable, accessible and high-quality healthcare for all Americans.
At the center of this vision are individual patients and families in control of their healthcare dollars and decisions. They are empowered to purchase the plan that meets their needs — with the resources and freedom to shop for value in a truly competitive national marketplace — and to see the doctors of their choosing. They are secure in the knowledge that they will never again run the risk of being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. And the health care safety net, should they need it, is designed by those closest to them, at the state and local level, who know the unique health needs of their communities.
The health care reform proposal recently introduced in the Senate is a key step in turning this vision into a reality. Built on patient-centered reforms, the Senate plan would provide immediate relief to Utahns from the burdens of Obamacare by repealing the law’s most onerous taxes, rolling back its most costly regulations and revitalizing our hollowed out insurance markets.
Just as important, it would begin to put in place a patient-centered health care system in which all Americans can access the kind of affordable, high-quality care they need.
These reforms are the product of careful deliberation, driven by an acute awareness of the costs of inaction, of putting politics over people. Policymaking is about doing as much as you can, when you can, to help solve the most pressing problems of the moment. And right now, Utahns across this great state are in desperate need of solutions to Obamacare’s failures.
The people of Utah have a long and proud tradition of knowing exactly what they are for: family, community, industry, responsible stewardship of government and the God-given right to a free conscience. These are the very values protected and enshrined in the Senate plan.
Unlike Obamacare’s Washington knows best approach, this Administration trusts individuals and families to make their own decisions. To ensure every American has access to affordable care, we support providing targeted tax credits to those who need financial assistance and expands the opportunity for folks to save some of their hard-earned money tax-free to spend on future health needs.
Recognizing that the people closest to a problem are best equipped to fix it, states deserve maximum flexibility to create a health care system that meets the unique needs of their citizens, especially those most in need of a strong and sustainable Medicaid program.
From your pioneering days, Utah has defined itself by what it's for, not what it's against. We need this same clarity of purpose in Washington today. The patient-centered proposals in Congress right now represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to undo the damage caused by an ill-conceived experiment in government-run health care. We’ve waited long enough. Now is the time to act.
Tom Price is the U.S. secretary of health and human services.