Taking on the health care system

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by ALFREDO ORTIZ

The health care system in the U.S. has been on the decline. Although medical innovations and new lifesaving technology still characterize the industry, costs for that care have been rising.

For the average family of four battling rising tuition costs and a mortgage, or the small business trying to make payroll, that increase is a hurdle when it comes to finding affordable care. In the end, it could mean going without any coverage at all.

The previous administration attempted to tackle the problem by passing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, the lack of choice, alongside additional regulations and taxes, pushed health insurance prices further upwards. The average cost of health care increased by 60 percent between 2013 and 2017.

For businesses and employees alike, that major increase has led to problems. According to the American Action Forum, the ACA has “been associated with $19 billion in lost wages, 10,130 fewer business establishments and nearly 300,000 lost jobs.”

These results point to signs that the ACA needs to be replaced with a system that fosters competition and accountability by offering more options that are tied to fewer regulations. However, some measures do need to be kept in place – such as the pre-existing condition measure that outlaws discrimination because of medical history.

The Trump administration has taken aim at this goal. While a number of attempts to repeal and replace the ACA were unsuccessful, a key measure that restricted choice – known as the individual mandate – was stripped from the legislation through the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last December.

Other efforts to specifically help small businesses have also been pursued in the form of expanding association health plans. Through a new rule handed down by the Department of Labor, small businesses are able to join together and more easily access cheaper health care options at rates comparable to what larger corporations offer.

This allows more small business owners to offer health coverage to their employees, but it’s a benefit that levels the playing field as small enterprises compete with larger corporations for available workers. This has become more difficult recently as the number of available jobs outpaces the number of people looking for work – a result of pro-growth policies, such as tax cuts and deregulation, which have stoked a white-hot economy.

For individuals, other efforts that have extended access to short-term health plans provide further financial relief. The new rule extends access for short term health coverage from three to twelve months – with the option to renew for up to three years. These plans are intended to be a gap option between care and are more affordable because they don’t have to comply with many of the ACA’s regulations.

While the patchwork of different health care rules implemented in 2018 are no substitute for needed comprehensive reform, they do provide financial relief and more options for those who are struggling to afford traditional plans under the ACA. Hopefully, it’s enough to tie America over until a major overhaul of the health care system can be tackled.

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