Healthcare Reform Update (part 1)

The GOP bill to replace Obamacare is going through committees in the House of Representatives, starting what is sure to be a long process.

Unfortunately, Democrats have announced that they will oppose any healthcare bill that’s intended to replace Obamacare.  That’s disappointing.  It’s fairly clear that Obamacare is in a death spiral, with most major insurers announcing that they will no longer offer policies on the healthcare exchanges created by Obamacare and price increases this year of up to 50+% in some states.  An increasing number of areas have only one insurer offering policies.  Knowing that a complete overhaul was needed, one could hope that Democrats would want to be included in a compromise final product.  Even if it would be very different from what they wanted, they could potentially help shape the final product.

There are also some Republicans who aren’t sure they will support the bill.  Conservatives, for example, are concerned about the still high cost, possibly more so given the large tax increases in Obamacare that will be repealed creating more of a deficit.

The good thing is that Republican sponsors of the bill seem open to some compromises.  Already, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) has introduced a companion bill that’s intended to supplement the original legislation.  Among other things, the bill would do two important things, both of which Thinking Man had already said in a previous column were important to any good legislation:   1) tort reform that includes a limit to non-economic damages (i.e. so called ‘pain and suffering’) and 2) the ability to sell insurance across state lines.  Healthcare costs won’t be impacted significantly without tort legal reform and undoing old laws only allowing insurance to be sold within the same state will promote competition.

There is a long way to go before anything becomes law, and any bill faces a tougher road in the Senate, though rules changed by Democrats to get Obamacare through without compromise will make a bill somewhat easier to pass.  We can hope that the final product will be a way to address healthcare needs without the onerous bureaucracy and huge cost overruns of Obamacare.

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