President Trump signs Right to Try act, Congress must still fix healthcare

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President Trump did attempt to fix the healthcare problem. His solution passed by the House of Representatives fell one vote short of passage in the Senate. Today he signed the Right to Try act. Still, it has been almost one year since that failed vote and still, there is no solution. Congress must fix health care as American continue to be hit by higher medical costs and lower care thresholds. The Affordable Care Act failed on its promises.

How the Affordable Care Act failed

Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, 85% of Americans were covered by health insurance. Except for the cost, nearly all were happy with the care they received. The goal of the ACA was to insure as many of the uninsured as possible, hold the line, reduce cost and improve quality.

When the ACA was being presented to the American people there were certain promises made. Then President Obama promised that premiums were supposed to fall by about $2,500 per household. Insurance coverage was to expand to cover nearly all of the 50 million uninsureds. And Americans health care quality was supposed to improve.

There were also promises that people could keep the plan they had if they liked it. They could also keep the doctor they had developed a long-term relationship with. By 2012, most provisions of the ACA went into effect.

All of the ObamaCare promises were broken.

In addition, many argue the cost has been skyrocketing and the quality of care has not improved.

For households that purchase their own insurance, premiums more than doubled between 2013 and 2017. With the higher premiums in 2018 and the predictions in 2019, premiums will have tripled in six years.

The cause of the rise in premiums.

Today just over 91% of Americans have health insurance. That’s 6% more than in 2009. The means the ACA provided health insurance to about 20 million previously uninsured Americans. Since the ACA didn’t add any more doctors or medical professionals, the increase helped to create shortages of services.

According to McKinsey Management Consultants, the ACA requiring healthy people to pay the same premium as sick people caused much of the increase in premiums. Five percent of the population consumes 50% of all health care.

Prior to the ACA, in most states, a household’s premium depended on their own expected medical needs. The ACA changed that by charging all consumers the same premium regardless of use. This may have helped the 5% who are very sick, but the other 95% of those insured, had to pay for it. The result was much higher premiums.

In addition, the ACA required all health insurance plans to be comprehensive and cover every medical condition. For instance, single males were purchasing policies that including pregnancy benefits, even though males obviously cannot get pregnant.

The quality of healthcare is declining.

McKinsey found that insurers are restricting choices of hospitals and even doctors for many of their subscribers. Many specific cancer hospitals are not available despite having insurance and many often costly medications are not available.

Higher premiums, lower quality, disruption of long-term relationships with physicians and penalties for not purchasing insurance, all resulted from the ACA.

President Trump and healthcare

President Trump is trying to fix the problem. The President is doing all that he can without approval from the deeply divided Congress. Trump eliminated the penalty for healthy people who freely choose to not buy health insurance.

Healthy people in their twenties in particular, often skip the purchase of health insurance, although they would likely buy catastrophic plans if available.

Trump will allow consumers to purchase plans that cover only what the consumer needs. While this would drive up costs for everyone else, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates these actions will increase premiums by about 10%. The CBO estimates that about 4 million people will refuse health insurance.

President Trump signs Right to Try act

Giving terminally ill patients the ability to access non-Food and Drug Administration experimental drugs. Patients who have no other avenues to try will be able to access drugs that are in the early stages of FDA review.

“For countless patients, time is not what they have,” the President says. “With the right to try, patients with life-threatening illnesses will finally have access to experimental treatments that could improve or even cure their conditions.”

Trump is also working to lower the cost of a prescription drug, speeding up the FDA review process and, he says, pharmaceutical companies will be has sought several changes in FDA policy this year, most of which have been aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs or speeding their review. Hinting at the possibility of another announcement, Trump said that pharmaceutical companies will be announcing massive drug price reductions on Friday.

It is time for Congress to act.

Partisan politics is causing the health care reform stalemate in Congress. The GOP wants to repeal and replace the entire ACA while the Dems just want to modify the existing law. There should be room for a compromise.

Without a fix, health care premiums will continue to skyrocket, the quality of care will continue to fall and Americans will be less healthy. We elected members of Congress to reverse this. So far they are not doing their job.

Let’s remember this in November.

Michael Busler, Ph.D. is a public policy analyst and a Professor of Finance at Stockton University where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Finance and Economics. He has written Op-ed columns in major newspapers for more than 35 years. @mbusler

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