With great interest, we have been watching the debacle in the House of Representatives as Congress attempts to grapple with improving “access” to health care.
By “access” Republicans in the House seem to mean availability in the same sense that you might have “access” to a Rolls Royce. Sure, they are available on the sales room floor. And it’s nice that the salesman can’t deny your ability to buy one just because you might have a pre-existing condition like a few speeding tickets. Or that you can help finance your children’s ability to buy one, at least until they’re 26 years old. The only catch is that somehow you need the money to pay for it.
Then there is the split between Republicans who disagree on how to provide “access” to health care. On the one hand, we have “Ryan Republicans” who want to offer large tax credits to people who already have enough money to pay for that Rolls Royce, with the caveat that the dealership is allowed to charge older people up to five times the amount they charge younger people, while a majority of the less wealthy would get a small rebate for something they couldn’t afford to purchase in the first place.
On the other hand, we have “Freedom Caucus Republicans” like Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, who think the dealership should just charge anyone whatever they think they can get for a Rolls Royce, which would give most customers the “freedom” to buy a broken-down vehicle that requires payments each month, but can only be used in “catastrophic” circumstances after going bankrupt spending thousands of dollars on repairs to keep it running.
The fallacy of both positions is that health care is not like purchasing a Rolls Royce or other commodities on the free market. If you are sick or injured, there is no “freedom” in not having coverage. Rep. Labrador talks a good game about “lowering the true cost of care” and making “patient-centered coverage available to all Americans.” But reading between the lines, it seems his only plan to accomplish this is to abolish any reasonable regulations and let American citizens purchase whatever “access” to health care they can find, if they can find it at all.
As parents and small business owners who have purchased health insurance on the individual market in Idaho since before the Affordable Care Act, we would like Rep. Labrador to know how an unregulated insurance market worked for us. It was terrible. Hunting each year to find a new plan that would accept us. Arbitrary limits on coverage for services, hidden behind obfuscating language that made comparison shopping meaningless. Accelerating rates decoupled from the actual care provided. High deductibles and exclusions that meant our insurance was basically worthless anyway.
The Affordable Care Act is not perfect. It has room for improvement. Rep. Labrador should drop his political posturing and return to the business at hand: providing real, meaningful affordable health care for the citizens of this country.
Christopher Drummond runs a small farm, and Jessica Bearman is an independent consultant for community foundations and philanthropic organizations. Together they live with their two sons outside of Viola, Idaho.