COLUMN: Transparency in health care
It's been just over three weeks since the second open enrollment season for health insurance began. While the $1 billion healthcare.gov website has not been plagued by glitches as it was last year, concerns about transparency, data discrepancies ...
It's been just over three weeks since the second open enrollment season for health insurance began. While the $1 billion healthcare.gov website has not been plagued by glitches as it was last year, concerns about transparency, data discrepancies and deception remain unresolved.
I believe we need to restore genuine accountability to government, a condition that begins with transparency, but the current administration has repeatedly refused to be honest and upfront with Congress and the public about the new health care law.
Perhaps the best glimpse into the administration's reasoning comes from Jonathan Gruber, an economics professor who advised the administration on the Affordable Care Act -- and received a taxpayer-funded contract to do so that was worth the equivalent of the president's annual salary.
Gruber stated: "[the] lack of transparency is a huge political advantage and ... that was really critical to getting the thing to pass."
His words were insulting, but the sentiment seems to seep through the ranks. Recently, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner revealed hundreds of thousands of dental plans were lumped into enrollment figures to make it appear that the administration had hit its goal of 7 million Americans enrolled. In reality, officials fell short of that number. But with few specifics released, no one could hold the administration accountable for its claims.
Gruber and Tavenner were called to testify before Congress last week. The lack of transparency has been a cause for concern, not just for Congress, but for consumer groups, health experts and others. How can we make good policy choices, ensure accountability or even have a meaningful dialogue if we don't have any information?
I am committed to restoring accountability and transparency, which is why the U.S. House of Representatives recently asked the judicial branch to weigh in on the president's unilateral decisions when it comes to the Affordable Care Act. I'm hopeful this lawsuit will help us preserve the constitutional separation of powers.
But that's not the only course of action I'm seeking. I've been working hard over the last few months on new legislation that offers a viable, patient-centered alternative to the Affordable Care Act.
The bill I support, the American Health Care Reform Act, is not being drafted in secret or shoved through Congress during late-night votes. It's not going to be a "you have to pass it to see what's in it" kind of situation. It's going to be upfront and transparent from the beginning.
Legitimate concerns will be able to be brought to the table and amendments can be made until we have a bill many can agree would provide you with more choice and more control over your health care. That's the way this process should work, and it's been a disservice to hardworking South Dakotans that this course has been abandoned.
Last year around this time, my office received hundreds of calls from South Dakotans who were concerned about increases to the cost of their health care. I know many remain worried that prices will again increase or that they'll be forced to switch plans to ensure the costs are somewhat manageable. I understand the frustrations, and I'm working to change the way the system works.
From the Affordable Care Act's conception, my concern has been that it gives Washington too much control and patients too little. Whether we're talking about nationwide mandates or data transparency, that concern has only become more legitimized as this legislation has been implemented. We need to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act and enact a more patient-centered approach. That's what I'm committed to delivering.