(CNN)The recent debate over the future of Obamacare has obscured an important, but fundamental, truth: The American health care system is exceptional.
It is entrepreneurial and offers patients more control over their health care decisions than anywhere else in the world. One of the primary problems with Obamacare is that it does not prioritize these values. As the Trump administration and congressional Republicans consider what to do after the repeal of Obamacare, they should, as the Hippocratic Oath states, “do no harm” to those elements of our health care system that are functioning well. But they should also take steps to promote policies that emphasize choice and innovation.
MA plans are able to achieve higher satisfaction and better outcomes for an equal or lower cost because they better manage care and effectively negotiate costs for everything from doctors and hospitals to prescription medicines. The cost-effectiveness of MA plans also has positive, spill-over effects on traditional Medicare. A recent study in the journal Health Affairs found that the greater the penetration of Medicare Advantage in a particular market, the lower the costs for traditional Medicare patients there.
Some have suggested that government needs to play a bigger role in negotiating prices for health care services and goods, such as pharmaceuticals. Such action would only stifle innovation, limit choices, and ultimately hurt patients and consumers here in America. Many Americans don’t realize that, with respect to prescription drugs, they already benefit from aggressive negotiations between pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), employers, and health plans to secure the best deal. This preserves choice for consumers while reaping the benefits of scale — namely, lower prices.
Though it is exceptional, America’s health care system is not perfect. But its shortcomings are not a function of too much choice and competition but, perhaps, of too little. Obamacare’s premise was that more money and more federal government involvement could address whatever problems our health care system has. This approach has largely been unsuccessful at dealing with rising health costs.
That’s why Republicans should build on America’s exceptional health care legacy. In replacing Obamacare, they should stay true to conservative principles and start with a foundation of the successful ideas that have both expanded Americans’ health care choices and driven the innovations that are helping many of us to live longer and healthier lives.
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