Like me, many Americans breathed a deep sigh of relief in late July to hear courageous US senators say, at last, “enough is enough” on the latest effort to fix America’s health care system. Their votes called a halt to what seemed like a never-ending replay of “Groundhog Day,” marked by a repeated but unsuccessful push for one-party solutions to health care reform. It was an encouraging sign that there may no longer be an appetite in Congress — among rank-and-file members, if not leadership — for partisan-driven reforms that are contrived behind closed doors.
After all, we’ve been down that road before — an unmapped, dead-end street that may be paved with good intentions, but ultimately leads us nowhere. It’s the same path, with a different party at the wheel, that got us where we are today with Obamacare, a one-sided package of reforms pushed through Congress in 2010. Make no mistake — there are serious flaws in Obamacare that must be fixed. And I, like most governors, am convinced that addressing those flaws must continue to be a top congressional priority. But the unacceptable House and Senate plans we’ve seen in recent months would have failed to address some of the current system’s most serious flaws, while leaving millions of our states’ most vulnerable citizens behind.
The Senate’s defeat of this most recent attempt to repair America’s health care system gives Congress a golden opportunity to start over by applying a much smarter approach — not repeal or replace, but “reset.” Throughout my career in public office, I’ve learned that meaningful change happens only with bipartisan support, open debate, and the normal push and pull of the legislative process.
The best next step is for Republicans and Democrats to work openly together on an issue we all agree needs to be fixed: stabilizing our individual health insurance market, as we watch those markets continue to fail in both red and blue states.
I’m encouraged to see that Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and Democratic Senator Patty Murray have planned bipartisan hearings, and have asked hospitals, doctors, nurses, and others impacted by the health insurance industry to help shape new reforms. A willingness to stabilize the markets will help build a bipartisan foundation that will be essential to developing a long-lasting and sustainable health care plan.
By rediscovering how to work together on these issues, we can begin to create a model that will lend itself to tackling a wider set of problems with solutions that are essential to our nation’s progress, complex issues like tax reform, entitlements, and ways to bridge the growing divide between the rich and poor.
My call for pushing “reset” by working together on our nation’s challenges is not some new idea or pipe dream. I know it can be done, because I’ve seen it done. In the 1990s, I was proud to be part of the team in Congress that worked across the aisle to overhaul our federal welfare programs, reform the Pentagon, and balance the federal budget (what a concept!) for the first time in decades. These bipartisan reforms began moving America down a better path, but at some point Congress lost its way.
To help Congress reset the health care debate, I’ve been working with a bipartisan group of governors — including Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts — to create a roadmap that can result in an improved health insurance system that is available and affordable for every American. We stand ready to work with our congressional delegations to develop a plan that is fiscally sound and provides affordable coverage for our most vulnerable citizens.
Push “reset” and let’s get started!
John R. Kasich is the governor of Ohio.