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The Journal Gazette

Friday, September 06, 2019 1:00 am

Politicians' health care 'debate' divorced from public realities

Troy Cozad

Health care remains Americans' biggest concern. A new Gallup poll adds to the long list of studies that confirm this.

We are concerned we won't be able to get coverage when we require it, or we won't be able to afford it, or it won't be adequate to meet our needs. We believe government has a responsibility to help ensure the health of its citizens – a political philosophy some 200 years old – and we don't understand why every other major nation in the world but us can provide some form of universal health care coverage – and usually with results that are as good and cost less.

The 2020 election should be a great opportunity for politicians to address these health care concerns, but what I am hearing seems focused more on partisan talking points than realistic solutions.

Yes, it is easy to slam Republicans. President Donald Trump has proposed draconian cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, reneging on earlier promises never to do that. GOP health care policy seems primarily focused on undermining or eliminating the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, disregarding that today nearly 25 million Americans depend on the ACA for their health coverage, uninsured levels have significantly declined since its inception, and most Americans support its key features such as protections against preexisting conditions discrimination and the ability to keep children on a parent's plan until age 26.

When GOP congressmen, as Rep. Jim Banks did in his recent Fort Wayne public meeting, spout that the ACA has failed and that most Americans don't like it, know that in the real world neither is true.

Yet Democrats, including several front-running 2020 presidential candidates, who have coalesced around “Medicare for All” likely have taken off on their own flight of fantasy. In my opinion, anyone who thinks it's feasible to restructure the private-sector health care industry that encompasses a fifth of the U.S. economy, millions of jobs and has been ingrained in our social infrastructure for some 75 years, has likely gone off their meds.

Here are health care ideas I would like to hear:

Republicans

Stop acting like a pack of hungry wolves attacking a baby elk every time you hear “Obamacare” unless you can offer a better plan. If you have ideas on how to protect those with preexisting conditions; and to provide affordable health care for those not eligible or priced out of group plan participation because they retired before age 65, are self-employed, poor, sick or work for a small business that can't economically offer a group plan – well, let's hear them. Empty promises of “great health care” and reciting worn-out talking points don't mean a thing.

Democrats

Get real. Moderate candidates, such as fellow Hoosier Pete Buttigieg, have highlighted many ideas that seem reasonable alternatives to Medicare for All. Enable those age 50 to 64 to buy into Medicare with pro-rated premiums so victims of age discrimination or in failing health can still obtain group coverage. Establish a “government option,” perhaps through ACA exchanges, so those without access to health coverage through an employer group plan still can obtain meaningful coverage. Allow government programs, such as Medicare, to nationally negotiate prescription drug pricing to moderate costs. Solidify general legal protections against preexisting condition discrimination and predatory pricing.

Obviously, there are hurdles for any of these solutions, but we need to do them not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Candidates, time to hear ideas, please, addressing what Americans care about most.

Troy Cozad is a Fort Wayne resident.