As Republicans continue to fight implementation of President Obama’s healthcare law, one former party leader is urging them to get over it and embrace a central pillar of the new law.
In an op-ed published Wednesday in “The Week,” a weekly news magazine, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a surgeon from Tennessee, said state leaders in both parties should move quickly to establish state-based insurance exchanges where consumers who don’t get insurance through an employer will be able to shop for health insurance plans.
The law envisions these exchanges will allow consumers to compare plans online much as they now compare airline tickets or hotel rooms. Those making less than four times the federal poverty line will also be eligible for government subsidies. And by 2019, about 24 million Americans are expected to buy coverage on an exchange.
But several GOP governors nationwide have said they will not set up exchanges in their states, a move that would prompt the federal government to step in and run one for residents in those state.
Frist said the resistance is misguided, noting that the exchanges were originally a Republican idea.
“As a doctor, I strongly believe that people without health insurance die sooner. Sure, they can eventually go to an emergency room. But it is often too late. They wait longer to get a breast lump checked out. They wait until their nagging cough turns into a fulminant pneumonia. They skip preventive care and then show up to the ER with severe, costly, late-stage symptoms that are harder and more expensive to treat,” he wrote.
“State exchanges are the solution. They represent the federalist ideal of states as "laboratories for democracy." We are seeing 50 states each designing a model that is right for them, empowered to take into account their individual cultures, politics, economies, and demographics. While much planning has yet to be done, we are already seeing a huge range in state models. I love the diversity and the innovation. … Simply put, state exchanges represent a distinctly American opportunity to improve our local communities and at the same time help our nation avert a major crisis. Let's take the plunge.”