EDITORIAL: Time to try cooperating on health care

Posted 7/20/17

In conservative Wyoming, you don’t have to look too far beyond the added taxes and high premiums in the insurance exchange — which now has only one insurer offering coverage — to understand why Obamacare is generally disliked here. We think …

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EDITORIAL: Time to try cooperating on health care


For seven years, Republican politicians — including our own Congressional delegation — talked about the urgent need to scrap Obamacare and come up with something better.

In conservative Wyoming, you don’t have to look too far beyond the added taxes and high premiums in the insurance exchange — which now has only one insurer offering coverage — to understand why Obamacare is generally disliked here. We think our senators and representatives have been correct in concluding that their constituents want a better solution than the one crafted by Democrats in 2010.

But when the GOP took over Washington this year, the party’s members of Congress appeared unsure of what to do. Republican lawmakers in the House hurriedly passed a rough draft of a replacement plan, one that President Donald Trump ultimately criticized as being “mean.” And after months of work, Republican senators’ revised bill fell apart this week when it drew opposition from a few lawmakers in their caucus’ more centrist and conservative wings.

What’s maddening is that, while Obamacare was also rammed through Congress in a partisan flurry, years have passed since then. Why did Republicans not have a surefire — or at least GOP-palatable — plan ready to go?

We ask that, in part, as a pointed rhetorical question; but we also think President Trump hit on the answer in February.

“Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject,” Trump told reporters at the time. “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

That’s probably not news to most, but health care’s overwhelming complexity is one reason why we implore Congress to now try creating a bipartisan plan that will pass with support from both Republicans and Democrats. We’d rather not see another narrow party-line vote that has to be secured by offering lawmakers special deals — like the proposed “Cornhusker Kickback” to win over a Nebraska senator on Obamacare or, this time around, a “Polar Payoff” to persuade Alaska senators to back the Republicans’ Better Care Reconciliation Act.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, wrote a Tuesday op-ed for the New York Times, saying the fatal flaw behind Obamacare and the GOP’s recently proposed plans was their “reflection of a single partisan point of view.”

“Another one-sided plan, driven hard by one party against the wishes of another, can never succeed because it will essentially maintain the status quo: partisan opposition and no real solutions,” Kasich wrote. “The best next step is for members of both parties to ignore the fear of criticism that can come from reaching across the aisle and put pencil to pad on these and other ideas that repair health care in real, sustainable ways.”

We realize Gov. Kasich is the kind of politician that journalists like; he’s something of a centrist, who isn’t afraid to criticize missteps from either party. That kind of approach gets you kudos from editorial boards (like this one), but we know it rarely wins over many hearts and minds among a party’s voters. (Recall that Kasich finished a distant third in his bid for the GOP’s presidential nomination last year.)

This is, of course, also the kind of “come together” editorial that we journalists love to write, but that tend to be more of an exercise in shouting into the void than effecting change.

But we’ll bang that drum again here. Because, honestly, what issue should be less political than someone’s health?

“Health care policy is only partisan in the abstract. When you or your loved one is sick and needs care, ideology is irrelevant; getting well is all that matters,” Kasich wrote. “That same common sense must be reflected in the way we fix Obamacare.”

We know the Ohio governor’s words hold true here in Wyoming, because we know plenty of people who didn’t think much of President Barack Obama’s administration, but who also appreciate parts of Obamacare, which helped a loved one afford medical treatment.

President Trump suggested the next step for Republicans should be to “let Obamacare fail,” and perhaps that would be the most politically savvy move. But instead, we hope Republicans will continue working on a new proposal in conjunction with Democrats, who should aid that effort.

In his New York Times piece, Kasich suggests a number of improvements, including giving states more flexibility with Medicaid dollars and finding ways to prioritize better care over more care. We’re sure there are many more ideas from Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, independents and others across the country that are worthy of broad consensus.

We know there will never be a plan that makes everyone happy — and in such a complicated system, any changes will likely bring unintended consequences. However, we do believe there is progress to be made.

We would encourage Rep. Liz Cheney, Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and Gov. Matt Mead to join in discussions and negotiations that include good ideas from all sides, because America doesn’t really need more Obamacare or Trumpcare. It just needs better care.