Three Democratic proposals for improving Obamacare that Republicans refuse to hear


Congressman Dan Kildee refutes the lie Republicans keep pedaling in their scheme to shove their terrible healthcare legislation through Congress.

A popular Republican talking point is the false notion that Democrats have not offered any suggestions for improving the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare). That way, they can claim that the only way to fix the ACA is to repeal and replace it with their shoddy American Health Care Act (AHCA), which is not really about improving healthcare in America at all.

Donald Trump has tried to blame Democrats for the lack of a bipartisan plan to improve the ACA. And the day the House voted to pass the AHCA, WILS radio host Michael Cohen stated in an interview with me that there had been news that Democrats had been discouraged from bringing ideas for improvement to the ACA to the House floor.

During the interview, I told Cohen that Congressman Dan Kildee has been saying all along that he’d be happy to reach across the aisle to find bipartisan strategies for improvement and had already shared some of his ideas. I followed up with Rep. Kildee the day after the vote for more details. (Read part one of my interview HERE.)

“Almost every single day, Democrats push the improvements we think need to be made to the ACA,” Rep. Kildee says.

Here are three major proposals Democrats have been trying to have heard by their Republican counterparts — to no avail.

1. Allowing insurers and the federal government to negotiate bulk prices with pharmaceutical companies to lower the cost of drugs to consumers. According to Rep. Kildee, Republicans have flatly refused to allow this, even though it’s come up over and over again.

“Why? Because they’re madly in love with pharmaceutical companies,” Rep. Kildee says. “If it comes down to pharmaceutical companies or people who need medicine, Republicans are on the side of pharmaceutical companies.”

2. Allowing younger people to buy into Medicare earlier. The idea is to let people choose Medicare as their primary insurance after a certain age, such as 50.

“Let them take their premium support, if they qualify, and their premium dollars, and simply buy into Medicare earlier,” Rep. Kildee says. “It’s a step toward universal coverage and it deals with the problems you see in states like New Mexico where there’s limited competition in the insurance market.”

As he explains, this will not only give consumers another option — and the improved pricing that comes from more competition, which Republicans claim to be for in their push for a “market-based solution” — but will also help strengthen Medicare. A larger, younger risk pool reduces costs for consumers and bolsters the program’s stability.

3. Improve the premium support the poorest people receive to buy insurance on the individual market. Rep. Kildee admits this would require additional resources, but since we all pay for each other’s insurance — that’s always been the case, long before the ACA and forever more — “we might as well pay in the smartest way,” Rep. Kildee says.

“Most of the examples of problems with the ACA are in the individual marketplace, which is about 6% to 7% of people who get health insurance,” he explains.

Another way to achieve the same goal would be to introduce a public option, such as Medicaid for all. Despite the claims of President Trump — who promised “healthcare for everybody” in the Republican plan — this idea is DOA with Republicans, despite the fact that it would insulate consumers from the unpredictability of the individual insurance market.

Republicans have made it very clear that they don’t want to work with Democrats on healthcare reform, and the explanation is simple: They don’t care about healthcare reform at all. They only care about their political agenda and providing a permanent tax break to the very wealthy.

“There are plenty of things we’ve been offering over and over,” Rep. Kildee says. “Rather than debate those ideas, Republicans are pretending no one ever offered them, and that’s disingenuous.”

[Photo credits: Top: House Democrats via Flickr; bottom courtesy of Congressman Dan Kildee’s office.]

  • Can we add a fourth suggestion? Have a single federal exchange instead of 50 state exchanges. That way the bureaucracy doesn’t have to be copied 50 times over. If memory serves, this was part of the original plan, but went to 50 exchanges to get certain people on board in the Senate.

    • Amy Lynn Smith

      I agree! Using a state that’s had good success with their online portal, such as California or Kentucky, and replicating it across the country is a great idea.

  • BurinMRB

    I’m convinced that the Repubs opposition to the ACA is primarily caused because it has been connected to former President Obama (‘Obamacare’). They hate Obama, mostly because he is competent–more competent than they. [The racism is secondary.]
    What’s wrong with Obamacare? Some object because it requires everyone to have health insurance. As a mother, and, grandmother–I know that everyone needs healthcare.
    You may be healthy–but accidents happen, unfriendly diseases attack you. And, some deaths occur because people occasionally make mistakes, especially when driving cars. [One of my 7-year-old, twin grandsons was killed when a ill auto driver slammed into my son’s car.]
    Because his family had health insurance, Luke was taken to U of M hospital–it was too late. [But his organs were donated–not likely for someone with no health insurance.]