Are you a bit confused by the health care debate that is now roiling the United States Congress? Do the arguments strike you as being a bit self-contradictory?
If you feel that way, please don’t blame yourself. Government officials at the highest levels of authority are indeed making self-contradictory statements, sometimes during a single appearance.
Consider, for instance, last week’s speech by Tom Price, the Secretary of Health and Human Services. In his appearance before the White House press corps, he said:
“If you’re a mom or a dad out there, and you make $40,000, $50,000, $60,000, your deductible … oftentimes is $8,000, $10,000, $12,000 a year. What that means is that you’ve got an insurance card, but you don’t get care because you can’t afford the deductible.”
But later in the same speech. he briefly touted “health savings accounts,” a type of insurance mechanism that is heavily promoted in the new Republican health care proposal. HSAs, by definition, are insurance plans with very high deductibles.
That’s a contradiction, isn’t it? And it’s one that has not yet been explained by Commissioner Price, or by any other supporter of the new Republican plan. Furthermore, the Commissioner’s initial critical comment overlooks a very valuable feature of high deductible health plans.
What is that feature? Well, it’s that health care providers with insurance contracts usually cannot refuse to see high deductible patients in their networks. And when they provide medical services to those patients, they must charge their discounted insurance company rates and not their full standard rates.
That can make the difference between seeing a provider and paying a reasonable discounted rate, or not seeing a provider at all. Or, alternatively, seeing a provider and paying a wildly inflated standard rate.
That’s why patients with deductibles of $8,000, $10,000, or $12,000 per year still receive valuable benefits by enrolling in insurance plans. And that’s why HSAs can provide attractive insurance options as well. Thus, that’s why it was contradictory for Commissioner Price to criticize the Affordable Care Act’s high deductible insurance options while praising the HSA options in the Republican plan.
Interestingly, there are many similarities between the Republican proposal and the existing Affordable Care Act. That might be why many of the conservative Republicans in Congress are now criticizing their own party’s proposal as ObamaCare Lite and ObamaCare 2.0.
If the warring political parties ever decide to acknowledge these similarities, they might be able to make progress towards the negotiation of compromise legislation. But as long as they continue to contradict themselves in their endeavors to disparage their foes and compliment their allies, we’re all likely to remain in this perpetual state of gridlock.