Bush cousin: I can’t tell difference between Dems, GOP
The cousin of former president George W. Bush told CNBC on Friday he blamed both Democrats and Republicans for the botched introduction of Affordable Care Act reforms, arguing that years of inaction allowed health care to balloon in cost and complexity.
Jonathan Bush, the co-founder and CEO of health-care information technology company athenahealth, said health-care reforms needed to happen "long before Obama was elected."
"The product gets bulkier and more expensive and finally, there's 40 million people left out and Obama comes in and says guess what, 'I'm going to make my mark on this thing,'" Bush said Friday on "Squawk on the Street." "Now of course you've got the consequences of that, which is all these people being marched to the head of a rifle to 'marketplace' themselves in the federal website."
Bush faulted both Republican and Democrat lawmakers with allowing health care to become less like a business product and individual plans to become less distinguishable from each other.
"It isn't a Republican and Democrat thing," Bush said. "Frankly, I'm a Bush and I can't tell the difference between Republicans and Democrats. I'm just saying in general, what's going on is the marketplace has been wimping out on making health care a product and really managing it and selling it."
Because so many people lacked health insurance before the introduction of the Affordable Care Act and there was never a true variety of plans, both factors forced President Barack Obama's reforms to become more like a program than a marketplace, Bush said.
"This doesn't feel like a marketplace," Bush said. "It feels like some horrible government program, and guess what? That's what it is. But we let it be that way, both sides of the aisle."
One way to entice more young people into the plan—a much-needed demographic for insurance plans because they pay for older and sicker people's medical costs—would be to unbundle health care, allowing consumers to buy more mental health coverage than surgical coverage, for example, Bush said.
"You have an underrepresentation of the young folks who just want simple coverage in case they get hit by a truck," Bush said. "And that's marching us inadvertently toward some sort of single-payer meltdown. Who cares about the website?"
Bush, who 17 years ago co-founded athenahealth with Todd Park, now chief technology officer for President Obama, said his former business partner should be able to fix the technical problems plaguing the glitch-prone online health insurance exchange set up through the Affordable Care Act.
He said with government procurement rules involved, though, "it's like trying to build a missile rather than a website."