- - Monday, March 9, 2020

Congress usually gets the solutions to problems dead wrong. I worked on Capitol Hill for years and watched as Congress ignored most of the big issues, yet when they did attempt to solve a controversial issue, they botched it.

Congress has abysmal approval ratings because the American people see them screwing up issue after issue. Harry Enten of CNN reported on June 1, 2019, that “Congress’ approval rating hasn’t hit 30 percent in 10 years. That’s a record.” In the six months since that story was published, Congress’ Real Clear Politics average of approval ratings has wavered between abysmal numbers ranging from 17 percent and 22 percent. Those numbers show that Congress is less popular than the band Nickelback, ugly footwear Crocs and food containing raisins. The hatred of Congress results from them getting legislative solutions wrong over and over again.

When Congress sensed voter’s heartburn over the big issue of health care cost and access, Democrats passed a massive government takeover of the health care industry. That is a great example of a solution that made the problem of cost and quality care inferior.

On foreign policy, Congress ignores the pleas of the American people to end the long wars in the Middle East. Congress refuses to revisit the Authorizations for the Use of Force (AUMF) that Congress passed in 2001 for Afghanistan and 2002 for Iraq. Instead, Congress does nothing then feigns outrage when the president uses military force. A great example is President Trump’s recent strike on Iraqi Gen. Qasem Soleimani and the outcry from members who refuse to revisit the AUMFs. 

On debt, Congress has been out to lunch. The national debt is at unimaginable levels, approximately $23 trillion today, yet this Congress points fingers across the aisle toward the other party to find a scapegoat. Both parties share blame and neither party has provided comprehensive solutions to out-of-control government spending. Just look at how Congress has suspended spending caps, like the sequester, as an example of Congress refusing to confront the issue of debt.

Now in health care, the issue of surprise medical billing (SMB) has become a top issue. Congress has, yet again, gotten it wrong. The solution for Congress is to push for price controls that will end up short-changing doctors and limiting choice for patients. Physician groups pointed this out in a joint letter to Congress that the solution being proposed “could lead to market consolidation and artificially low payment rates.” The problem was created by insurance companies, yet the doctors and patients are paying the price. 

Insurance companies have made it difficult for consumers to avoid these bills and are the ones who make it virtually impossible for an insured to avoid and out-of-network provider. Insurance companies are the ones who purposely craft narrow and confusing policies. Unexpected bills are the friend of the insurance company, because they don’t have to pay them. Victims of SMBs are doctors, patients and health care providers as a whole, yet the insurance companies are trying to shift blame over to doctors and patients. 

The political campaign on surprise medical billing is simply put — blame the victim.

Every year the health care industry makes record profits thanks to a system crafted by government to benefit the insurance companies. Insurance company lobbyists were the bad guys who pushed Obamacare, because they were granted a mandate that every American was forced to purchase their product. It is a perfect system for the insurers because they get to craft coverage areas while Americans are stuck with insurance carriers’ high deductibles and lame coverage. 

A proper solution would look for ways to remove incentives for insurance companies to purposely avoid paying their own customers for care the customers receive. Congress is considering a House Ways and Means draft and a House Education and Labor Committee proposal, yet it might make sense for nothing to pass if the solutions end up being worse than the problem. 

We have seen this happen too many times before.

• Brian Darling is former counsel and senior communications director for Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican.

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