Republicans seem determine to turn health care into a free market commodity. Americans who cannot afford to pay the going price will be left with few options if the Republicans are allowed to restructure health care delivery.
The American Medical Association, the country’s largest professional group of doctors, wasted no time in throwing its support behind Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) after he was announced on November 29 as President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to be secretary of health and human services. “His service as a physician, state legislator and member of the U.S. Congress provides a depth of experience to lead HHS,” the AMA said in a press release that same day. “Dr. Price has been a leader in the development of health policies to advance patient choice and market-based solutions as well as reduce excessive regulatory burdens that diminish time devoted to patient care and increase costs.”
It’s not surprising that the organization, which has battled against various health care regulations, would be eager to see Price appointed. The former orthopedic surgeon has long complained that doctors face, as the AMA put it, “excessive regulatory burdens,” and his proposals would lead to increased pay for doctors. But they would also reverse reforms that have kept health care spending in check during Barack Obama’s presidency and could send costs skyrocketing once again.
For all of the controversy over health care under Obama, there has been general agreement on one area of success: Growth in health care spending has slowed. The Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, created new schemes for paying doctors and hospitals that helped sharply reduce the annual increase in national health care spending and keep it below pre-recession levels. Both Republicans and Democrats have supported these provisions, which have centered on charging for the overall quality of care rather than for each service performed. But now Price, a longtime booster of freeing doctors from government restrictions, appears eager and able to undo them