SUPPORTERS of President Barack Obama's health care law claim conservatives offer no alternative other than a return to an untenable status quo.
In reality, Republicans have produced bold reform proposals that would allow officials to both repeal and replace Obamacare.
Oklahoma's own U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, introduced the Patients' Choice Act in 2009 (along with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and others.)
Coburn's plan would grant individuals the same tax advantages employers get for purchasing health insurance. That would greatly benefit Oklahoma's countless self-employed farmers, ranchers and other entrepreneurs, as well as uninsured workers.
Coburn's bill also gives every American a $2,290 tax credit (or $5,710 per family) to buy health insurance. The tax credit would cover the employee's share of a policy while the employer continues to cover the rest, as occurs currently. Any remaining tax credit money could be used for a health savings account covering routine medical expenses.
The legislation reforms Medicaid by giving low-income families an additional $5,000 on top of their tax credit. That would provide a family $10,710 to buy insurance coverage outside of Medicaid. Coburn notes that 40 percent of doctors and hospitals nationally refuse to accept Medicaid patients due to low payments. His plan would therefore improve low-income families' access to health care.
On the other hand, Obamacare doesn't address Medicaid's problems; it merely supersizes the program.
Coburn's bill calls for state insurance exchanges giving citizens access to a wide range of insurance products with guaranteed coverage regardless of age or pre-existing conditions. Unlike Obamacare, Coburn's plan isn't financed by cutting Medicare funding, and it doesn't require new spending or new taxes. One independent estimate predicted Coburn's bill could save $70 billion and provide coverage to a majority of uninsured Americans.
Ryan, budget guru of the U.S. House, has called for transforming Medicare to a premium-support payment for currently younger workers and increasing competitive bidding in the system. He also wants to convert the federal share of Medicaid spending into a block grant for states, indexed for inflation and population growth, allowing state-level reforms.
Liberals who decry repeal efforts act as though Obamacare has resolved health care problems. It hasn't. Surveys indicate many experienced doctors are considering retirement due to the law and fewer people may enter the medical profession.
Steve Jacob, adjunct faculty with the University of North Texas Health Science Center, estimates the United States will need to produce an additional 24,000 doctors annually for 20 years to meet demand under Obamacare. He notes one in four Oklahoma physicians is 60 or older, and Oklahoma has only 69 primary-care physicians for every 100,000 residents.
Health care costs are predicted to skyrocket under Obamacare. Jacob estimates the average family premium in Oklahoma will be $22,128 by 2020 under Obamacare, compared with $13,006 in 2010. Oklahoma employees' share will nearly double while deductibles will surge to $5,200 from $1,977. The average Oklahoma employee share of the premium and deductible combined would comprise about 12.5 percent of median household income.
Obamacare is clearly unsustainable. It lacks buy-in from patients and doctors; its financial impact on government finance and private incomes will be devastating.
Obamacare won't improve our health care woes. Coburn and Ryan show there are sustainable alternatives to improve patient coverage without breaking the bank.