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Compromise on legislation, not healthcare

Last week, President Trump reaffirmed his explicit desire to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, despite his own party’s repeated unsuccessful attempts at repealing and replacing the Obama-era legislation. Through an executive order, Trump has eliminated government subsidies that were meant to ensure lower deductibles for low-income insurance holders. This blatant attack on the Affordable Care Act has highlighted the current president’s extreme proclivity for issuing executive orders—a political mechanism that he in the past has criticized Obama for supposedly overusing—to bypass congressional gridlock. While checks-and-balances as well as limits on executive power remain essential political concerns in the current Trump era, today we turn specifically to the contentious subject of his executive action: healthcare.

In the U.S., current discussions around health care policy are burdened by partisan agendas as well as the politicizing of an industry that many of our elected representatives only interact with superficially. With a stark divide between the two major political parties, the current health care debate often revolves around blind loyalty to party platforms with little input from outside sources, including political constituents. While the Senate Health Committee held bipartisan hearings on the subject earlier this year, subsequent partisan politics indicates the testimony presented at these hearings was widely ignored. 

Perhaps the best illustration of such political loyalties at work is the recent Republican effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare (synonymous with the Affordable Care Act, which one-third of Americans do not realize). Despite warnings from Senator John McCain that healthcare reform should remain apolitical, Senate Republicans pushed ahead with repealing the “Democratic" healthcare act. As a result, Senator Susan Collins, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator McCain voted against their party’s proposed bill despite sharp criticism. Soon afterwards, the Graham-Cassidy attempt was struck down with similar criticisms of failing to reach across the aisle to produce a more palatable alternative to ObamaCare. In response to such anti-party vetoes by Republican senators, President Trump even tweeted that GOP congressmen should avoid being labeled the “Republican[s] who saved ObamaCare”.

Discussions around health care reform should be about more than political agendas. Debates about each policy’s merits should rest on more than unsubstantiated political ideology; instead, it should build upon research with expert testimony and town halls holding more weight than pressure from party donors. For voters on either side of the aisle, the predictable congressional gridlock on health care should be frustrating and unacceptable. When the lives and health of average Americans are at stake, all of us have the responsibility to demand more compromise and compassion from our representatives. According to one report, the U.S spends exorbitantly on health care due to “substantially higher prices and more fragmented care delivery that leads to duplication of resources and [poorly coordinated specialists]”. Consequences of this wasteful spending pattern include wage stagnation, personal bankruptcy and budget shortfalls that “crowd out other forms of social spending that support health”. In light of these realities, the health care debate in this country should center on solutions, forcing compromise to reach a better equilibrium. 

Ultimately, our politicians must remember that politics is about more than just financing re-election campaigns; clearly, there are representatives on both sides of the aisle who do realize this is the case. As voters, we should push for health care experts to be heard by those in Congress who will listen. Hopefully, during the midterm elections, those who refuse to stand steadfast for more robust policy around healthcare will be swept away by the current.

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