Ken Blackwell is Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The American Thinker on October 8, 2020.
Two weeks ago, I was in a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence to talk about some of the issues facing our great nation. Our discussion ranged from the Supreme Court nomination to the COVID-19 pandemic and included an outline of the America First Health Plan, President Trump's plan for the future of our health care system. I have to say, I was impressed with the Trump administration's approach to health care, and I think Ohioans have a lot more to look forward to when it comes to improving our access to quality care.
I say "more," because President Trump has already done much to improve the state of our health care system. Working with a Republican-controlled Congress, President Trump reduced Obamacare's individual mandate, the mechanism used to force individuals to purchase a qualifying health plan or risk paying a hefty fine, to a cost of zero. This action has effectively rendered Obamacare powerless, yet many of the ill effects of the law — skyrocketing premiums, narrowing networks, reduced choice, and the inability to keep your doctor — have remained.
To foster competition, increase consumer access and control, and lower costs, the Trump administration has embraced patient-centered reforms through executive action and regulation. Perhaps most notably to Ohioans, President Trump's price transparency rules finally provided the breakthrough we needed on state law designed to prevent surprise medical bills. And while various special interest groups are attempting to block these rules from going into effect, the fact remains that President Trump is moving the ball forward on the fight to improve patient knowledge and control over health care costs.
The Trump administration has also expanded association health plans (AHPs) to improve consumer access to affordable health insurance plans. AHPs allow small businesses to band together to achieve scale and purchase insurance plans generally only accessible to larger organizations. Ohio has embraced AHPs for years, and the Trump administration's work builds on what we've already done here in the Buckeye State. Thanks to the expansion of AHPs, more businesses are able to purchase better, more affordable health insurance for their employees.
Short-term plans are also more available thanks to President Trump. These plans allow families to find suitable insurance for a fraction of the cost of an individual market plan. Twice as many insurers offer short-term plans as compared to the individual market, and consumers have eight times as many plans from which to choose. Short-term plans, in particular, benefit Ohioans needing temporary coverage between jobs or before full retirement.
The America First Health Plan also puts an emphasis on the continued expansion of telehealth services. During the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump ordered the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand the availability of telehealth options to our nation's seniors. This allowed countless seniors in Ohio and across the nation to access their doctors without having to venture out of their homes. Thanks to President Trump's leadership on this issue, the Ohio General Assembly is now at work to update our state laws to allow for greater use of telehealth services for patients with private insurance.
And while there are many other aspects of President Trump's work on health care to applaud, I am particularly excited about his administration's new rules to allow patients to use pre-tax dollars to access direct primary care and health sharing ministries. Ohio has several dozen direct primary care offices, which provide affordable, quality care without needing insurance. And health care sharing ministries allow families to choose a health plan that meets their health care needs and supports their individual values when it comes to health care decisions.
President Trump has been building a record of improving our nation's health care system over the past three years. Despite coming into office under Obamacare, President Trump has managed to take incremental steps to increase patient choice and access to more affordable, quality care. I believe that the America First Health Plan furthers those efforts to put patients and families back into the driver's seat of health care, and I look forward to how his plans will continue to benefit all Ohioans, both young and old.