Health care fix

The Affordable Care Act isn't affordable for many Americans, something a bipartisan team of lawmakers seeks to fix.

Shane Dunlap, Associated Press

Gov. Scott Walker was in Washington this week to help the Trump administration brainstorm its next steps on health care.

Here’s an idea: Instead of continuing to go it alone, Republicans should work with moderate Democrats to fix the Affordable Care Act so it’s actually affordable.

That’s what a group of bipartisan lawmakers, calling themselves the Problem Solvers Caucus, is proposing. The group, led by Rep. Tom Reed, R-New York, and Josh Gottheimer, D-New Jersey, said Monday its goal is to immediately stabilize insurance markets while pushing for longer-term changes that have enjoyed bipartisan support in the past.

What a concept: cooperation. Wisconsin’s congressional delegation should get involved in this promising effort.

Specially, the centrist Problem Solvers proposed:

• Funding payments to insurance companies that President Donald Trump is threatening to cut off. The payments subsidize the cost of deductibles and co-payments for individuals with low to middle incomes who get their health coverage through the Obamacare exchanges.

• Making it easier to sell health insurance across state lines, which would increase competition in parts of the country that lack it.

• Repealing a tax on medical devices, which many Wisconsin medical companies would welcome.

• Exempting more small businesses from having to provide health coverage to their employees — a mandate that discourages employers from hiring more than 50 people.

• Creating a fund to help pay for people with pre-existing conditions.

The Republican-run House, led by Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, narrowly passed a bill in May to repeal and replace Obamacare without any Democratic votes, and with 20 Republicans in opposition. Trump initially hailed the bill as a success but later called it “mean.” The Congressional Budget Office estimated 23 million Americans would lose their insurance under it.

Then the GOP-controlled Senate tried and last week failed to adopt a bill with exclusively Republican votes.

The GOP push to rewrite the nation’s health laws is similar in one big way to Democratic adoption of Obamacare seven years ago. Neither party got any support from the other side for their proposals. That’s why Obamacare has been targeted so fiercely for repeal. It’s also why GOP replacement proposals have failed.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, after sinking his own party’s Senate bill last week, called on his colleagues to work across the partisan divide to fix health care problems.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, on Monday similarly urged the two parties to come together on the issue. And U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, rejected his Senate leader’s suggestion that Washington should move on to other issues.

Rather than the go-it-alone partisan attempts of the past, it’s time for cooperation to improve a flawed American health care system.