Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in its King v. Burwell decision, essentially arguing the law’s language stating that exchanges must be “established by the state” (i.e. not by the federal government) is just one of many examples of “inartful drafting” in the law’s text.
Inartful indeed. The phrase stipulating subsidies (read: taxpayer dollars) are for state-based exchanges is found 11 times in the law’s text.
The Court’s decision means that millions of Americans with chronic health care problems can relax, knowing that they won’t be in jeopardy of losing their health insurance. But it also means that millions more who saw their health care costs go up and their health care access and quality go down because of the ACA now must shift their hopes of reform from the Judicial Branch to the Legislative Branch of the American government. Congress can still act to eliminate the ACA’s worst provisions, which would reduce prices, increase access, and improve care.
Contrary to marketing and partisan comments, the ACA has failed to control costs. In fact, premiums are expected to rise by double digits in most states this year. (In some areas, rates may spike by as much as 35 percent..) A big reason for these price spikes has to do with the ACA’s thousands of regulations, taxes, and mandates which distort the market and drive up costs.
Legislative fixes to strip away some of these distortions could allow the market to finally bring down costs as it does in almost all other sectors of the economy.
Such fixes could also improve access to care. While the ACA was touted as a solution to provide coverage for the 50 million Americans who lacked insurance, the results have been lackluster. So far the ACA has only covered around one-fifth of America’s uninsured population.
Clearing out the ACA’s bureaucratic aspects would allow for many new healthcare products and services to enter the market in the same way that deregulating the airline industry in 1978 improved access and variety of air travel. History has shown the best way to improve access to goods is through a functioning market, not government overreach.
Lastly, Congress can fix the ACA to improve the quality of care by addressing the regulatory nightmare that healthcare providers face. Doctors currently spend about 10 hours a week doing paperwork and administration, time that could otherwise be devoted to the patient. The ACA’s administrative burden is part of the reason why 23 percent of American doctors are retiring, strongly considering retiring, or working less in 2015 according to a new physician survey by Jackson Healthcare.
We all want a healthcare system that provides affordable, available, high-quality coverage. While it’s now clear that the Supreme Court has struck out in helping Americans achieve this, it’s now time for Congress to step up to the plate and finally fix the country’s healthcare system.
Alfredo Ortiz is president and CEO of the Job Creators Network.