During each debate so far, neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence articulated the Trump administration’s widespread health care accomplishments. On Thursday evening, President Trump has a final opportunity to defend this record and explain his actions to fix problems with ObamaCare and improve the broader health system.
When he entered office, ObamaCare had already caused premiums to more than double in the individual health insurance market — where the self-employed and many without workplace coverage purchase insurance. Deductibles also soared, and people had far fewer plan options. Middle-income families and small businesses and their workers — many of whom were forced out of coverage they liked — became uninsured or paid much more. To add insult to injury, families that lost coverage were then forced to pay a tax under ObamaCare for not having insurance.
President Trump and the previous Republican Congress eliminated that penalty. On a largely bipartisan basis, this Congress also eliminated ObamaCare taxes on health insurance and medical innovation.
The president didn’t stop there. He took decisive action to help the tens of millions of Americans harmed by ObamaCare. His administration stabilized the individual market and expanded affordable options outside of that market. Individual market premiums have declined since 2018 and people have more choices of both ObamaCare plans and non-ObamaCare plans. As a result, and perhaps ironically, ObamaCare under President Trump’s stewardship has become more popular.
The administration produced a roadmap for broader health system reforms — a 120-page detailed plan with more than 50 recommendations for expanding health care choice and competition. Many are being implemented, including expanding price transparency, increasing pharmaceutical competition, and radically improving care for people suffering from kidney disease.
Think about this: Americans will finally know health care prices before receiving services because of the Trump administration’s actions. This will spur competition and lead to large savings for middle-class families.
Another major Trump action will lead to a more robust individual market for insurance. Employers can now use tax-free dollars to reimburse workers who buy coverage in the individual market through health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).
Using HRAs, middle-income people will once again buy coverage in the individual market. According to the U.S. Treasury Department estimates, 8 million new people will purchase coverage in the individual market using HRAs. Thus, the Trump rule will lead four times more individual market enrollees than ObamaCare with no new federal spending as workers utilize their employer contributions. This is the market that then-President Obama and then-Vice President Biden imagined when ObamaCare became law.
Many on the left have seized on an ObamaCare case before the Supreme Court in November, scaring people that the law is hanging by a thread. This is nonsense. The Supreme Court has already upheld ObamaCare twice and will almost certainly not strike it down now. And while the appeals court agreed with the lower court judge that the individual mandate must fall, they ordered him to reconsider his conclusion that the rest of ObamaCare must fall with it.
The issue confronting voters is whether to support Mr. Biden’s plan largely built on spending more money subsidizing insurance companies that sell ObamaCare policies. ObamaCare already requires the federal government to write $1.8 trillion in checks to insurers over the next decade.
Instead of building on ObamaCare’s failed structure, Congress should enact reforms that reduce costs and further increase health care choices. We are among a broad group of conservative leaders at the state and federal level who endorse a plan to do just that, The Health Care Choices proposal. This plan codifies the Trump administration’s action to increase health care choices and transparency and allocates taxpayer dollars in much better ways to improve health outcomes. For example, the plan not only requires coverage for people with pre-existing conditions but allocates resources to ensure they receive high-quality care. Unlike the left’s approach to further empower the federal bureaucracy and health insurance companies, this plan puts patients in control.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) served from 1995-2007. Brian Blase served as a special assistant to President Trump at the National Economic Council, 2017-19. He is president of Blase Policy Strategies LLC.