Star Tribune Editorial

The looming U.S. House vote to repeal health care reform is nothing more than a political stunt. Republicans don't have a veto-proof majority, nor do they control the U.S. Senate.

So why is the GOP wasting the nation's time on a vote that will change nothing?

Voters deserve better than the glib answer given last week by Rep. John Boehner, the GOP's new House speaker.

"I believe it's our responsibility to do what we said we were going to do," Boehner said in a news conference. "And I think it's pretty clear to the American people that the best health care system in the world is going to go down the drain if we don't act."

The reality is that the hugely expensive American health care system has long been circling the drain in frightening, ever-tightening circles.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), while imperfect, finally enacted measures to begin slowing that death spiral.

Returning to a system that is too expensive and filled with incentives to drive up costs even further is the riskiest health care strategy of all.

The Obama administration and the health care industry, which is belatedly voicing its opposition to repeal, have missed opportunities to call out the GOP.

The industry especially needs to dial up the volume before the party's grandstanding becomes something more serious.

Long before the ACA's passage, soaring health care premiums burdened employers and consumers.

Turning the nation's back on the health care overhaul would mean that many of those with coverage could find themselves in the ranks of the uninsured.

The nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund estimates that without reform, per-person spending on health premiums would increase by 94 percent in the next nine years.

In practical terms, that means the average family premium in an employer plan would cost nearly $24,000 in 2020; in 2008, the cost was $12,298. These costs aren't sustainable for businesses, consumers, providers or insurers.

Those who rely on Medicare, the federal health insurance program for seniors, also have cause for alarm. Without reform, a key component of Medicare could be insolvent before the end of the decade.

For all the complaining about the ACA being a "government takeover of health care," the law is built upon the private sector.

It takes small but important steps to fix a perverse payment system that rewards providers for putting people into the hospital instead of keeping them out.

Beginning in 2014, insurers will compete for customers in online exchanges that allow consumers to comparison-shop for coverage. Subsidies will help millions of consumers get or afford insurance.

In the meantime, the law offers important new benefits that would be lost with repeal: prescription drug help for seniors, protections for children with preexisting conditions and extended coverage for young adults who don't yet have their own health insurance.

Repealing the ACA also would add $230 billion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years, according to a report Thursday by the respected, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The U.S. health care industry has already invested millions of dollars in staff time and equipment to begin making ACA reforms.

Despite that, and regardless of the millions of newly insured the law will create, providers have been far too tentative about taking sides on repeal, while many industry leaders have voiced opposition in private.

On Friday, the American Medical Association, which represents many doctors, issued a welcomed statement indicating that it does not support the GOP action.

The rest of the nation's providers and insurers need to follow its lead. This debate is too important to be left solely to politicians.