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Focus on Health Costs


While conservatives avoided health reform like the plague (during the plague), this can either be a threat or an opportunity for them in 2024.  

Government programs directly finance half of our nation’s more than $4.3 trillion annual spending on health care, with private payments financing the rest, primarily through employer-sponsored insurance which expects a 7% increase next year.

Democrats always can be counted on to take the offense with new government programs and policy initiatives that impose more price controls, excessive mandates and counter-productive regulations. The more their policies distort the market with higher costs and worse outcomes, the more determined they are to offer more of the same solutions!  

Former Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle writes in “It’s the Cost of Healthcare, Stupid” that there should be a litmus test for conservatives on health care:  “Would this policy empower the private market to lower overall healthcare costs?  If the answer is ‘yes,’ consider moving forward; if not, pump the brakes.”

She argues conservatives should overhaul the Food and Drug Administration, incentivize rather than punish innovation, confront hospital monopolies, and increase competition in drug pricing. She says states need to look at their Any-Willing-Provider and Certificate-of-Need laws that “stifle competition and jack up prices.”

If we stay on the path of price controls and government control, the system will continue to decline, giving Sen. Bernie Sanders and other socialized medicine advocates the upper hand. We see the trend throughout our health sector.

Physicians currently are facing a 2% Medicare payment cut after two decades of flat payments which, after inflation, means a 26% payment reduction since 2001, Wayne Winegarden of the Pacific Research Institute (PRI) explains in “Price Controls on Doctors are a Pathway to Socialized Medicine.”

“Starving doctors” is not a sustainable solution, he writes. Government price caps and controls have many adverse consequences. Unable to make ends meet, they are selling their practices to hospitals, which then can double, triple, or even quadruple their prices for the same services.  

Just look at rent control, Winegarden writes, which has effectively destroyed once-beautiful American cities. 

Government-ordered pay cuts for physicians will inevitably lead to destruction as well, starting with shortages—up to 124,000 too-few physicians by 2023—which in turn leads to lower quality and rationing of care. How much time did your health plan’s doctor spend with you the last time you visited?

Conservatives in the House have been focusing on health care, including the first hearing in four years held by the Energy and Commerce Committee to address how much Medicare pays doctors.  Lawmakers offered 23 separate bills “to determine the best pathway forward toward a system that rewards health care providers that deliver high quality care to patients.”

The mis-named Inflation Reduction Act is another example of a massive market distortion. Pharmaceutical companies already are shutting down research into new and better treatments and cures because of the government’s unprecedented assault on their industry.

Obamacare has been yet another abject failure in its promise to lower health cost for American families.  

The Paragon Health Institute has a new paper that shows “The Shortcomings of the ACA Exchanges: Far Less Enrollment at a Much Higher Cost.”

Covering each additional new private insurance enrollee cost taxpayers $36,789 a year in 2021, they write.  (The CBO had projected the annual cost would be less than a third of that—$10,538.)  And this is for policies with massive deductibles and very limited physician networks.  

So what does government do?  Pour more money into the program, of course—to the tune of $64 billion in enhanced Obamacare subsidies through 2025.  And for what?  Three million more people have private coverage—not the 20 million CBO had projected—while Medicaid enrollment has soared by 17.4 million.

“Over the last decade, Democrats have become the nation’s leading purveyors of low-quality, high-cost health coverage.  They are the ones endangering America’s health care,” writes Sally Pipes, president and CEO of PRI, in “Will Dems Ever Own Up to Obamacare Failure?”  

Sally sees the future better than the rest of us because she was raised in Canada under its socialized health system.  Unless conservatives embrace free-market health reforms, we will continue to slide toward socialism in the U.S. as well.


Grace-Marie Turner is Founder and Executive Director of the Galen Institute.