Commentary: If you don’t like your health plan, change Congress

(Scott Applewhite | The Associated Press) House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, left, joined by Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., holds up a copy of the original Affordable Care Act bill during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 8, 2017, as the GOP leadership talks about its work on the long-awaited Republican plan to repeal and replace "Obamacare."

For more than a decade, we have witnessed bipartisan failure by Congress to pass meaningful health system reform. Obamacare was neither affordable nor protective for patients; the uninsured who have been “covered” by Obamacare have illusory benefits at an enormous price. The junk insurance now being offered as Trumpcare is just a meaner version of bronze plans. This bipartisan failure is killing Americans, their family budgets and our federal government. Preventable injury to hospitalized patients is the fifth leading cause of death in this country. If the safety record of American hospitals were true of the airline industry a 747 would crash every other week.

Family budgets, already squeezed by low wages, fail to have resources to meet the cost shifting now common in health insurance. Premiums, deductibles, co-payments, co-insurance, point-of-service payments, etc., make care unaffordable for all of the poor and near poor and much of the middle class. GoFundMe for illness and injury cost is now the go-to health insurer of average Americans, and personal bankruptcy is a common outcome.

The federal deficit is growing rapidly and is projected to reach double the GDP within just a few years. All of the federal deficit is due to unfunded health care costs. Mike Leavitt, former Utah governor and former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, has said that there is no place on the international leader board for a nation spending 25 percent of GDP on health care. We are almost there. If we don’t change the way we do health care business, America will become a debt-ridden second-tier nation.

Given the critical nature of health policy, candidates for Congress in Utah should emphasize best thinking in health policy ideas. I checked the websites of all Utah congressional candidates who have received at least $100,000 in campaign donations. With one exception, there are no good ideas for health reform.

Reps. Rob Bishop and John Curtis don’t even mention health care on their campaign websites. Senate candidate Mitt Romney and Reps. Chris Stewart and Mia Love want to repeal Obamacare, but fail to mention what comes next, except generally referring to market solutions. Senate candidate Jenny Wilson and House candidate Ben McAdams want to fix or defend Obamacare. House candidate Eric Eliason, while not proposing to repeal Obamacare, recognizes that American health care delivery is in disarray and is looking for data-driven, consensus policy changes. Electing any of these candidates fails to get us past the bipartisan Obamacare/Trumpcare debacle.

The one candidate with a good idea is Shireen Ghorbani, the Democrat running in the 2nd District. She believes that Congress should pass the State Based Universal Health Care Act of 2018. If passed, this legislation would, for the first time, allow states a free hand in addressing health system problems, remove federal obstacles from their path and provide for a mechanism for states to apply for appropriate federal funding to finance health care for all residents. Utah, with lowest-in-the-nation per-person health care costs and some of the best-quality health care systems, surely deserves a chance to take on the task of sustainably reforming health care delivery. But then, why shouldn’t other states likewise have the option to escape Obamacare?

I live in the 2nd Congressional District. Shireen Ghorbani has earned my vote, though I was one of the state Republican delegates who helped Stewart get his first nomination to run for Congress.

As for the race for Senate, I will reserve judgment. Perhaps either Romney or Wilson will show some courage, leave behind the partisan bickering over Obamacare and surprise me by joining Ghorbani in endorsing the State Based Universal Health Care Act of 2018.

Joseph Jarvis

Joseph Q. Jarvis, M.D., MSPH, is the author of “The Purple World: Healing the Harm in American Health Care,” which will be released Sept. 4.

Twitter, @DrJoeQJarvis

Online, www.drjosephqjarvis.com