IBJOpinion

SIDDIQUI: Americans are trustworthy on insurance

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SiddiquiThe failed rollout of the Obamacare health care exchanges is seen by many as a political gift to the Republican Party. There is no question that President Obama’s administration failed to execute a controversial law that has been heavily criticized, litigated in courts and elections, and created great unrest among the American people.

The president and his team have little excuse. This law has been on the books for years. The federal government should have been able to deliver these exchanges within the time frame available.

Its inability to do so suggests two things: First, the federal bureaucracy makes it incapable of delivering new and innovative programs in the 21st century. Second, there is a real question about the competence of the U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services under the president’s leadership.

However, political failure is not all that is at stake. This failure has harmed our economy and wasted precious resources.

States like Indiana initially took federal grants to explore establishing a state-based exchange. However, later ideology drove Indiana Republicans to prefer a federal exchange over a state exchange.

Indiana would have been better served by establishing a state-based exchange.

Domestic policy is best executed when state and local government are at the forefront of its implementation. Once Obamacare had been successfully litigated in the 2012 election and the U.S. Supreme Court, our state’s leadership had a responsibility to take its execution away from an ineffective federal government.

States that have established their own exchanges have seen the greatest gains in enrollment into insurance plans sold by private and not-for-profit insurance companies. These exchanges do not lead to government insurance plans but private insurance. It is in our state’s interest that more Hoosiers purchase private insurance.

However, politics has been central to the implementation of the health care law. The reality is that Obamacare has problems. Any law that tries to deal with a large portion of our economy will.

However, it is the first law in a long time that attempts to address real problems. We are better served if our elected leaders come up with solutions that will make the law better. Asking the American people to go back to a system that was forcing people into bankruptcy and emergency rooms does not help anyone.

Indiana should take Arkansas’ lead in implementing the Medicare expansion portion of Obamacare. Take Medicare expansion funds and help subsidize eligible low-income Hoosiers in purchasing private health care plans through an effective state-run exchange.

I believe Hoosiers are best served when we limit government. This does not mean we should have no government, but limited government. As someone who supports limited government, I am frustrated by both political parties over their inability to implement policy.

Republicans opposed to Obamacare are better served by offering real solutions that sustain portions of the law that work, improve portions that can be made better, and repeal portions that cannot be salvaged.

Obama and the Democrats are better served to trust the American people. Make health care affordable and easily accessible so people want to purchase insurance rather than being forced to do so by an individual mandate.

The failure of the health care exchanges might end up politically hurting Obama and the Democratic Party. However, the parties that are really hurt by this political dysfunction are the American people.•

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Siddiqui is an attorney, doctoral student at Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, and publisher of Siddiqui Public Affairs Review. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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