Op-Ed: 'Obamacare orphans' could be a huge problem for GOP health plan

Op-Ed: 'Obamacare orphans' could be a huge problem for GOP health plan
Op-Ed: 'Obamacare orphans' could be a huge problem for GOP health plan

Here's what so many of President Trump's political enemies don't get: The American public really doesn't like politicians or the news media. And as long as those two groups remain the core of the anti-Trump movement, there are not likely to be enough detractors to vote him out of office. But if a large number of poorer and sicker ordinary Americans become the loudest critics of the White House or one of its major policies, all bets are off.

So what will the Trump team and the GOP Congress have up their sleeves to improve real access to health care and avoid this potential public relations disaster? So far, they're making a lot of the same mistakes by focusing on insurance coverage instead of the root of the problem.

Again, the big trap is conflating health insurance with health care. Even as the Obama team promised to get tens of millions of new people onto the health insurance rolls, not one part of the ACA did anything to address the need for more doctors, nurses, and health care facilities to treat them. In other words, all Obamacare did was successfully increase demand without even remotely doing anything to increase supply. It was the supply problem that made health care and the cost of health insurance more expensive in the first place. If health care was cheaper and more abundant, getting health insurance would be easier.

The Trump team and Congress need to attack those root problems head on. The costs and requirements to become and remain a doctor, especially a primary care physicians, are too high in America, period. The government can reduce them by relaxing, (not eliminating), many of its regulations on licensing doctors and providing them with some kind of tort reform.

It can also crack down on the accelerating rate of hospital consolidation that has left all of us, but especially people in rural areas, with fewer choices and almost no price competition in health care. Finally, it can institute the kinds of tax reforms that countries like Switzerland and Israel have instituted to boost price-deflating med tech, biotech and pharma innovations.

Another wise move would be to focus on the truly poorest and sickest Americans by allowing them and only them to join so-called "risk pools" that will not skimp on their care. If paying for that high quality care means reducing benefits and subsidies for healthier and wealthier Americans, so be it. Being able to provide better care to the most vulnerable people will provide the Republicans a very potent public relations tool of their own.

Otherwise, President Trump and the Republican Congress will be swamped with an endless stream of sympathetic and genuine Obamacare orphans all over TV news and the Internet in much of the coming year. And those orphans will be a very powerful weapon against him unless he and Congress can get them real health care, not just another new insurance plan.

Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.


Get the latest news delivered to your inbox

Follow us on social media networks