In Our View: Health Care Reform, Again

GOP should heed Herrera Beutler and take politics out of plans to replace ACA

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As details of a revised health care proposal begin to leak, one thing is clear — it is far too early to assess the details of the new plan. But as congressional Republicans try to salvage health care reform from the wreckage of their earlier attempt, they would be wise to heed the words of Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas.

“I don’t think of this as political,” Herrera Beutler said last week during a meeting with The Columbian’s Editorial Board. “It’s not a political issue, it really is life and death for some people, and it impacts everybody. I will not leave behind vulnerable populations.”

After consideration of the GOP’s earlier American Health Care Act, which would repeal the Affordable Care Act and provide a replacement, Herrera Beutler declared that she did not support her party’s plan. With opposition from both moderate Republicans and the conservative Freedom Caucus, it soon become clear that support was lacking, and the plan was withdrawn before coming to a vote. Herrera Beutler based her opposition on a lack of protection for vulnerable citizens, particularly children.

Herrera Beutler effectively represented her constituents in opposing the plan, demonstrating that she has found her voice as a representative in the ongoing debate over health care.

Among her assertions is the need for thoughtful deliberation. “Hold hearings, invite providers in, invite groups in, take testimony, get feedback, get buy-in, build coalitions,” she said. This flies in the face of Republicans’ demonstrated approach, which seems driven more by ideological opposition to the Affordable Care Act — colloquially known as Obamacare — than a desire to fix health care.

The American Health Care Act was introduced March 8 and was expected to come up for a vote March 24 before being withdrawn. Considering that health care represents roughly one-sixth of the U.S. economy, this rush to judgment poorly served the public; Republican leaders should avoid making the same mistake with their new proposal.

Republicans — and Herrera Beutler — also should abandon their crusade against Planned Parenthood and their efforts to defund the organization. Herrera Beutler argued that Planned Parenthood does not provide comprehensive health services for women, but that can be said about numerous health care organizations that have not come under fire from conservatives. Republicans’ efforts to halt funding for Planned Parenthood is driven by the fact that the organization provides abortions — yet it is illegal to use federal money for those abortions. Instead, conservatives should acknowledge that Planned Parenthood serves more than 2 million patients a year and that many of those are part of the vulnerable populations Herrera Beutler professes to defend.

One of the best ways to fix health care is to increase competition among insurance providers. Herrera Beutler follows Republican orthodoxy in saying that insurance should be allowed to be sold across state lines, but this might not be a panacea that attracts insurers to the market. As Sabrina Corlette, director of the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, told The New York Times in 2015, “The barriers to entry are not truly regulatory, they are financial and they are network.”

There are other issues, as well, reflecting the complexity of health care. Rather than work to fix Obamacare for the good of the public, Republicans are committed to replacing it. Along the way, Herrera Beutler has emerged as a voice of reason; her fellow Republicans should listen.