Detroit Free Press Op-Ed: Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO: GOP, Dems Should Compromise on Health Care Reform

Detroit Free Press Op-Ed: Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO: GOP, Dems Should Compromise on Health Care Reform

The following article appeared in the Detroit Free Press opinion section on Monday, Sept. 25. 

Two decades ago, with Democrats and Republicans sharing equal numbers of seats in the Michigan House of Representatives, House leaders constructed a unique power-sharing arrangement. Committees were co-chaired by one Democrat and one Republican.  Agreements were constructed where neither party would try to ram through its agenda if special circumstances, like a seat unexpectedly becoming vacant, served to tilt the delicate balance of power.

I was there, as chief of staff to one of the two Speakers of the House. Today, as I observe the politics of American health care play out in Washington D.C. and our state capitals, I am more convinced than ever that special efforts must be made by responsible lawmakers to ensure that future reforms of our health care and insurance systems come from a resolute commitment to bipartisanship.

I’m not alone. Last week, Senator John McCain announced his opposition to the latest Republican effort to reform the Affordable Care Act – the Graham-Cassidy legislation. He said, “I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried.”

He’s right. Democrats legislated the ACA with no Republican support in Congress, and only marginal support from Republican-led governments in state capitals. Republicans have sought to repeal the ACA – so far, unsuccessfully – with no Democratic support.

As the clock ticks away on a self-imposed deadline of Sept. 30 to legislate ACA reforms with a mere 50 votes in the Senate – rather than the typical 60 votes – bipartisanship seems like the only viable way to true reform. And compromise by both sides is the only true path to bipartisanship.

Congressional compromise on the ACA requires that reform – not “repeal” or “replace” – be the goal. One side must acknowledge that the foundations of the health insurance system created by the ACA will remain, while the other side acknowledges the imperfections of the system that exist and commits to changing them. Subsidies, tax credits, health insurance company profit restrictions, coverage mandates, taxes, Medicaid expansion, state and federal controls over the system of regulation – everything must be on the table for discussion and compromise.

The objective should be to create a system that is sustainable for the American people to access health coverage that they can afford, and that provides them with value for what they pay. By the way, the “American people” should include all people – people who love the ACA, the people who loathe it and the multitude of businesses, hospitals, and patient advocacy organizations who are stakeholders to it.

A large percentage of people and organizations have already expressed that Graham-Cassidy is not the way to reform. On Sept. 23, trade associations representing the often-competing interests of hospitals, physicians and insurance companies sent a unified message to the Senate opposing Graham-Cassidy and pleading for bipartisan solutions.

Bipartisanship is hard work, but my own experience in government says it can be done. Senator McCain’s call for “lasting reform” that is the “product of extensive hearings, debate and amendment” should be heeded. It’s the only path to creating a sustainable system of private-market health care and insurance that will promote affordability, access and better health for the American people.

Daniel J. Loepp is president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Photo credit: Flazingo Photos

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