If Republican lawmakers are so concerned about saving money, they should take the lead in ending the ludicrous system of tying most people's health insurance to their work.
The Great Recession cost about 8 million Americans their jobs. That's millions of individuals and families who lost health coverage through no fault of their own. The United States is one of the few countries that provides health insurance in this way.
Nearly all other developed nations — our economic peers, as it were — have some variation of a national insurance plan to guarantee affordable healthcare to all. And most of these nations spend about half as much per person on healthcare as the U.S. does.
"We still have to decide whether healthcare is a privilege or a right," said Tony Sinay, a healthcare economist at Cal State Long Beach. "If you look at other countries, it's a right."
Republican lawmakers should think about expanding the Medicare system, not shrinking it. Or do they think it's just a quirk of being French or British or Swedish that allows these people to spend less on healthcare but to enjoy longer life spans than average Americans?
Laurence Baker, a professor of health research and policy at Stanford University, said a Medicare-for-all system could solve many of America's healthcare woes, particularly if it could be structured to contain costs while extending coverage to all.
"The problem is that trying to take apart our existing system would be really hard," he said. "A lot of countries that were able to do it did so in the 1940s and 1960s. Because we've waited so long, it makes things that much harder."
To which the obvious reply is that we're Americans. We pride ourselves on not shying away from challenges just because they're tough.
Or at least we used to.