In honor of today’s presidential inauguration, I started making a list of exciting past, present, and future health policies advocated by the Obama administration. Thirty minutes later there was still just one word on my computer screen: OBAMACARE. Then, I came to terms with what the next four years represent for health policy: an empty page in healthcare history, colored only by the shadow of the Obamacare fight. In short: we’ve spent all of our health policy political capital, and the next few years are all about paying off the bill.
I could perhaps accept this bleak vision of the future if I thought that the Affordable Care Act had provided solid solutions to our current problems. But the compromises needed to pass the ACA left it littered with holes—including a lack of effective cost-controls that threatens to undermine the entire system. Because of these holes, there is one more truth we have to face: however expensive Obamacare was initially, we still haven’t paid the full price.
The addition of Paul Ryan to the Republican presidential ticket has brought the healthcare proposals of both parties to the forefront. To listen to the Sunday morning talk shows, you’d think the platforms were definitively and irreconcilably split on every health-related issue. Examining healthcare proposals from both sides, however, shows that they have more in common than you might realize. Yet we seem to have reached a point where this common ground isn’t something to celebrate, but rather a reality to retreat from as quickly and decisively as possible.