Tulsa World

Health care common ground

Rep. Hern’s view has uniting potential


U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern’s intention to dive deep into health care as a member of the influentia­l Ways and Means Committee comes at a crucial time and has potential for bipartisan support.

Overflowin­g hospitals from the pandemic have put issues like health care costs, access and insurance on the political front burner.

The Tulsa congressma­n came into office in 2018 promising better federal fiscal management and reforms in health care and taxes. His views on health care could attract allies from the other side of the aisle.

He wants to move insurance coverage away from the employer-provided group coverage to individual plans and require more cost transparen­cy from health care providers, according to a story from reporter Randy Krehbiel.

Hern’s committee assignment puts him in a unique position to seek these reforms. He also is chairman of the Budget and Spending Task Force of the Republican Study Committee, the policy arm of the House Republican conference, and is on a House GOP health care task force.

The employer-based model developed in the post-World War II era as labor unions negotiated those benefits into compensati­on packages.

Hern argues that employers are tired of administer­ing the plans and that those no longer improve worker recruitmen­t. Other proponents say individual plans will create a more competitiv­e market as Americans would choose among different carriers.

The medical industry rarely provides pricing before services. Often, when patients ask about cost, they are told it depends on their insurance provider and choice of the employer-negotiated plan.

“The average American never sees their cost of a surgery until after it’s gone through their insurance, through the health care provider, they’ve jostled back and forth to see who’s going to pay what, and then you’re left with ‘this is what you’re to pay,’” Hern said.

The push for cost transparen­cy and competitio­n isn’t new; the late Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn listed those as high priorities. Many who backed Medicare-for-all plans cite those problems in defending their views.

There is room for getting to common ground, and Hern is on the right track, though we disagree with him on blaming the problems on the Affordable Care Act.

Problems with health care — lack of access, rising costs and medical debt — existed well before the law was enacted.

The ACA was a first step but fell short in several areas, a result of the way it was put together and the unwillingn­ess of both parties to use it as a starting point instead of the end product.

Lawmakers need to find solutions to shore up those gaps and do so in a bipartisan way.

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