When it comes to health care, most Americans want essentially the same thing – lower costs, better quality, and improved access for those who need it most. While it suffered from some bumps in the road during its implementation and rollout, the Affordable Care Act has done a decent job at expanding coverage to an additional 20 million Americans who did not previously have access to care while protecting patients with pre-existing conditions.
The ACA may not be perfect, but with the right policies, we can make it stronger and more effective. However, instead of rolling up their sleeves and working to improve our current health care system, some legislators in Washington seem more preoccupied with building an entirely new one from scratch. At least that’s how it would seem given the introduction of yet another public option health care proposal in Congress.
Introduced by Senators Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., the Medicare-X Choice Act would have an enormous impact on America’s health care landscape — just not necessarily the kind the senators would like to see. If passed, it would introduce a public option to compete with private and employer-sponsored health care plans. As well-intentioned as their proposal may be, the result would unfortunately be higher taxes on working Americans and reduced access to care in vulnerable communities.
According to a study released in February, a government-controlled health insurance system like the public option could place a significant financial burden on working families here in Arizona and across the country during an economic crisis, forcing them to pay an additional $2,833 in taxes annually by 2050. This – at a time when hardworking Arizonans and Americans nationwide are barely getting by – is quite frankly a non-starter.
As if that weren’t enough, the consequences of a public option could be devastating for our health care community. As it stands, America’s hospitals are already struggling just to keep their doors open in the wake of the pandemic, nationwide physician and health care worker shortages, and increased rates of provider consolidation. A separate report details how a public option could increase revenue losses at America’s hospitals and health care providers by up to 60%, hindering their ability to respond to the current pandemic and prepare for future health care crises.
Sadly, the facilities that would be hurt the most by these cuts are the same ones that need our support the most, including hospitals, clinics, and other health care providers serving our many rural, hard-to-reach communities where access and affordability already act as high barriers to care. Rural hospitals in Arizona and throughout the country are operating on razor-thin margins as it is.
In order to improve upon our current health care system, we must continue to build on what is working today and fix what’s broken. That sentiment is shared by two-thirds of voters compared to 40% who support imposing a Medicare for All system. This should be a clear sign for lawmakers in Washington pushing the Medicare-X Choice Act of 2021 that they need to reverse course and work together to improve the health care system we have today rather than trying to build a new one from scratch.
Our senators and representatives in Washington, D.C., should focus on practical solutions to improve upon our current health care system, not experiment with one-size-fits-all government systems that fail to address rising costs while threatening the very institutions we rely on to keep our communities safe and healthy. These kinds of proposals will only result in higher taxes, longer waiting times, and reduced access for hard-working Americans.
Let’s focus on lowering costs and improving access by building on what’s working in our current health care system and continuing to fix what isn’t. Ultimately, we are all in this together and it will take all of us working together to find the right solutions to America’s health care problems.
Patrick Montroy is an elected representative of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers’ Local 359.