DANIEL STONE, MD
The late UCLA Professor Richard Brown, once commented that the Clinton healthcare initiative failed because the status quo was everyone’s second choice. Some of that logic applies to today’s failure to vote on the AHCA. Additionally, no one ever lost money betting against the rollback of an established entitlement program.
The Republicans opponents of the ACA have not yet faced the fact that the reason coverage is so expensive is because the care is so expensive. You can’t have cheap insurance for expensive services. So, something “better and cheaper” was a never more than a slogan. That slogan showed the AHCA to be the bait and switch that it was.
Health insurance has evolved to serve two purposes; to protect against health related financial catastrophe and to finance care. The ACA, with its high deductibles does a better job with the former than the latter. (Although opponents give short shrift to the mitigation provided by the provision of preventive services without charge.) It will be hard to satisfy the diverse collection of stakeholders with anything much different.
This is another illustration of the fact that anything approaching universal coverage is challenging for the developed world’s outlier on healthcare cost. Medicare has around 15% lower costs than commercial plans. The only practical way out of the cost vs access quandary is to harness the commercial insurance overhead/waste/profit and direct it toward coverage.
So, to paraphrase Keynes, in the long run, we’re in both single payer and dead. It’s just a question of whether we’re all dead first or just some of us.
My immediate reaction is that now they are going to nibble at the ACA for 4 years. I’d actually have preferred the House passed this monster of a bill, which the Senate would have rejected, and then had to answer for it in 2018.
Energy and Commerce committee is not going to rewrite the AHCA now and is instead turning to CHIP reauthorization (where they may sneak in ACA cuts) and exchange stabilization.
Let me comment briefly on a small political point. Trump issued an ultimatum asking for a vote, just like you’d do if you last paid attention to how Congress works during 8th-grade civics class. But, clearly, when it became clear they would lose, Trump Congressional allies who are more sophisticated explained to the White House why you didn’t want to expose GOP House members to casting a potentially toxic vote in a sure-to-lose cause, and so the president “requested” that the vote not be held; i.e., put the onus on himself, not Ryan.
Translation: Trump is learning how politics really works and is adjusting to reality. That will likely help him in the future.