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OP-ED: Why Lamar Alexander’s Dangerous Obamacare Sequel Must Go

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Moderate Republicans think they can make a deal with Democrats on healthcare. But this “deal” would only hurt Americans and further liberal plans to stage a government takeover of healthcare.

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander proposed the Lower Health Care Costs Act (LHCC) earlier this year to address a serious problem: surprise medical bills. Millions of insured Americans are hit with these unexpected costs every year when they are rushed to out-of-network hospitals in emergencies. President Trump himself has vowed to tackle this problem head on. LHCC aims to accomplish this goal, but it falls far short of achieving it. Instead, it creates new problems and injects more big government incompetence into our healthcare system.

Sen. Alexander’s solution to surprise medical costs is fixed pricing for all out-of-network medical care. That’s socialized medicine – in some respects, a step to the left of even Obamacare. That may sound good to people who want to emulate Venezuela, but it won’t be good for the American people.

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Patients and physicians would not benefit from this policy, but giant insurance companies would. The lobbying arm of the insurance industry, America’s Health Insurance Plans, backs LHCC just as enthusiastically as it backed Obamacare. The reason is obvious: the Alexander plan rewards insurance companies with more government largesse. The trouble is that this giveaway will cause Americans to lose even more doctors and hospitals than they did after Obamacare’s passage.

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By capping the cost of out-of-network medical service, insurance companies may make more money, but the country will have less care options. And it will get worse once these cronies abuse this very legislation that was ostensibly crafted with their interests in mind.

Insurers control their own networks. So, with prices set at median in-network rates, they will easily be able to cut costs for themselves even further by eliminating higher-priced doctors from their plans. There will be fewer care options for the average American and many people will experience a decline in their healthcare service.

For all these reasons and more, healthcare providers are not keen on the LHCC. The American Hospital Association opposes this government intervention into medical care.

“[We] are concerned about several of the proposals that would allow the government to intrude into private commercial contracts between providers and insurers,” AHA Executive Vice President Tom Nickels said of LHCC. “Specifically, banning so-called ‘all or nothing’ clauses could lead to even more narrow networks with fewer provider choices for patients, while adversely affecting access to care at rural and community hospitals.”

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a doctor himself, is one Republican who notices the big problem with LHCC. “If you fix the price that ER doctors work at, you will get a shortage… This is what happened to Chavez, it’s what happened to Maduro. I don’t think we’re becoming Venezuela soon, but this is part of what they do down there,” he told reporters in June.

LHCC is another misguided Republican attempt at bipartisanship. It won’t solve the problem it aims to fix, but it will make moderate Republicans feel like they did something. However, that something is worse than doing nothing. It involves helping Democrats bring socialized medicine to the United States.

Ordinary Americans want a healthcare system that lets them have the doctors of their choice and provides affordable care for their needs. Government bureaucrats will ensure that they have neither. Americans will end up a troubling forerunner to socialized medicine that still leaves them with surprise medical bills and painful costs. Bureaucrats, shockingly, can’t solve these problems.

Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, and the rest of GOP leadership should tell these Republicans to stop trying to please Democrats and come up with a real solution to our country’s healthcare problems. LHCC is not a real solution. The only people who will be happy with it are those who want a government takeover of healthcare and insurance companies.

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