Placing blame won’t solve health care crisis

Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich had a lot to say last week about the war of words developing between President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over the health care issue.

The growing divide between Trump and McConnell began, of course, with the president’s dissatisfaction that the Republican-controlled Senate couldn’t accomplish his goal of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

McConnell, speaking at a public engagement earlier in the week, had described the president as having “excessive expectations” and “unrealistic deadlines.”

That might have been the first shot fired in the debate, but as one would expect, Trump wasn’t going to take that lying down.

Quickly the president responded Thursday morning with this tweet: “Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!”

A short time later, Gingrich commented on the issue during his appearance Thursday morning on “Fox & Friends,” describing the scenario as “absurd.” Gingrich questioned Trump’s placing blame on McConnell and the Senate Republicans when so many Democrats also voted no, including those in states that supported Trump’s candidacy.

I caught the interview as I was getting ready for work Thursday morning, and the discussion especially caught my attention because the Tribune Chronicle editorial board, of which I am a member, recently had taken a similar position, albeit on a smaller scale. In the last week or so, we carried an editorial reminding our elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, that Trumbull County constituents did, indeed, back Trump in the presidential race.

For that reason, we suggested that elected Democrats should tone down the rhetoric and constant backlash at Trump.

Gingrich, who I view as intelligent and generally level-headed, was not willing to give the president a free pass on the health care repeal failure, either.

“Mitch McConnell got 49 out of 52. And I think the president can’t disassociate himself from this,” said Gingrich, who generally has been a Trump supporter. “He’s (Trump) part of the leadership team. He’s not an observer sitting up in the stands. He’s on the field. It was a collective failure. Both the Trump administration and the Senate Republicans failed.

“But to get involved in shooting at each other when there were 16 Democrats voting ‘no,’ … is just goofy.”

Certainly, the effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare is not simple.

In fact, Gingrich went on to describe it “unbelievably complicated.” He noted that correcting the law’s flaws and replacing it “could take three or four or five years” and “10 or 12 different bills.”

“I’m not sure anyone is smart enough to write a single bill to replace ObamaCare.”

As evidenced by the recent failed attempts, he’s probably right.

In the meantime, though, ongoing debate is making the insurance market even less stable, causing all of us to suffer the consequences.

Mixed signals on the future of ObamaCare are creating uncertainty “far outside the norm” and leading insurers to seek higher premium increases for 2018 than would otherwise have been the case, according to an analysis released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

According to that report, about 10 million people who buy policies through and state-run markets are potentially affected, as are millions more who purchase policies on their own.

Those in the government-sponsored markets can dodge the hit with the help of tax credits. But, as the Associated Press has reported, off-marketplace customers pay full freight, and they face a second consecutive year of steep increases. Many are self-employed business owners.

The turmoil that exists for people who buy individual health insurance is in sharp contrast to relative calm and stability for the majority of Americans insured through workplace plans.

But, as has come to be expected, even those plans are predicted to rise some 5 or 6 percent next year, consultants say.

For most of us, those increases are not offset with equal increases in salaries.

At the end of the day, we need to find a solution. And public criticism isn’t the way to get there.