Treating ills of Obamacare

Despite its faults, Obamacare offers an opportunity to improve the nation’s health care system.

To cash in on that opportunity, the White House and Congress should focus on fixing Obamacare’s flaws and moving forward to cover more Americans with health insurance and to deliver high-quality care more cost-effectively.

A major element of the Affordable Care Act . . . takes effect Oct. 1 with the opening of health insurance marketplaces, called exchanges, in which consumers can shop for health insurance.

However, Obamacare’s potential remains threatened by partisan paralysis. Some Republicans and Democrats are digging in for a political standoff that could force Obamacare to limp forward, bringing some benefits, but with unrepaired faults creating costly problems.

The 173-member House Republican Study Committee is committed to repeal Obamacare, disdaining the idea of fixing it. Meanwhile, Democratic rhetoric focuses on defending Obamacare against all criticism, overlooking the legislation’s weaknesses.

Repealing Obamacare, which was passed in 2010 and takes effect in stages over roughly 10 years, is not a practical option. Not even Republicans support going backward to the system that squeezed businesses and families between higher insurance costs and lower coverage as well as left millions of Americans uninsured.

But Republicans have repeatedly been unable to muster adequate support for an alternative to Obamacare. There is no reason to expect a better result this fall, and further delay would be costly.

Defending Obamacare while ignoring faults is equally objectionable. The effort to reform health care contains too many issues, too many moving parts and too many unintended consequences to expect perfection in one attempt.

Obamacare offers a long list of improvements, from expanding access to health insurance for about 30 million currently uninsured Americans to providing incentives for preventive care, which can catch health problems before they become more costly.

But flaws in Obamacare have already surfaced. The administration has been forced to delay one of Obamacare’s consumer protections – a limit on out-of-pocket costs – for group insurance. A business mandate to provide insurance for workers is also delayed, at a cost of $12 billion. . . .

In addition, measures to control health care costs require bolstering. Medicaid expansion poses trouble for state budgets. Requirements to provide contraceptive services threaten to infringe on religious freedom.

More problems will need correction as more elements of the law take effect and businesses and consumers respond to new incentives.

The public should demand that the White House and Congress find solutions that keep America moving toward a more cost-effective health care system that works for all.

(This is a guest editorial from The Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.