Healthcare We Can Live With

Terrence Wall, a well-known developer for Dane County and beyond, writes from a business man’s perspective. Often, he writes about the intersection of politics and business for IB, and how pending mandates or legislation affects bottom line. However, his topic vary.

Let’s face it, whatever health care changes that might still emerge from Congress could profoundly impact small businesses and our individual freedoms as well. I admit, I don’t support a government takeover of our health care system, but then neither do an overwhelming majority of Wisconsin voters.

A government system, like those in Canada and Europe, focuses on cost control rather than good medicine and will not be patient-centered. Government monopolies are notorious for delayed service and long lines. (The delays in Great Britain are so long that many Brits purchase their own supplemental private insurance, thereby paying twice.) Delayed care is denied care.

America has the best health care providers in the world, including the best nurses and the best doctors. Providing insurance to the uninsured who want it can be resolved by improving the present system, with changes aimed at allowing more competition to lower prices (competition presently prohibited by the government, I might add). Any change should empower consumers to have more say over pricing, increase competition, and provide for tort reform in order to reduce cost. A solution should focus on affordability for all Americans as the goal, something the current legislation fails to provide.

Here are eight simple solutions to providing affordable, private-sector health care insurance:

  1. Portability. Allow insurance companies to sell and consumers to buy across state lines, thereby creating competition that will drive down pricing. Likewise, allow for individual portability; even when an employee changes jobs, they should be allowed to take their insurance with them.
  2. Coverage for pre-existing conditions. Require insurance companies to provide insurance for pre-existing conditions, and allow consumers a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for pre-existing conditions for the marginal additional cost of the premium.
  3. Transparency. Require providers to publish a menu of services and their costs on the Internet and at the point of purchase so consumers can make informed decisions. Require every plan to have a deductible.
  4. Eliminate expensive mandates. Eliminate federal and state mandates that require expensive, one-size-fits-all “Cadillac plans” and instead allow a variety of different insurance plans with different kinds of coverage to be offered, including less expensive basic plans with high deductibles.
  5. Personal tax deductibility. Allow individual taxpayer deductibility of insurance premiums on their tax returns. Businesses are already able to deduct these costs; individuals should be allowed to deduct them, too.
  6. Buying pools. Allow small businesses to set up and manage insurance buying pools to take advantage of quantity discounts.
  7. Lawsuit reform. Disallow frivolous lawsuits and cap legal fees. Even the government estimates that frivolous lawsuits annually add hundreds of billions of dollars in costs.
  8. Tax-free health savings accounts. Allow individuals to set up tax-free HSAs.

Allowing consumers to purchase health insurance across state lines to drive down the cost of insurance premiums is one obvious solution. Presently, there are only a handful of insurance companies offering coverage in Wisconsin; but across the nation there are hundreds of providers. Washington could easily implement this reform now, but Democrats continue to block reforms that are private-sector oriented.

Americans don’t want government control of their health care decisions, they want real reform of the health insurance industry that puts them in control. Instead, Washington would have imposed an eventual government monopoly that would increase prices, reduce quality, and rack up huge deficits. In addition to the taxes, we consumers would have been stuck with no choice.

Wisconsin is a leader in providing health care with some of the best hospitals in the world, which is why people from other states and foreign countries fly here to be treated by people who care. Instead of destroying the system that built this extraordinary level of care, we should focus on reforming the system to fix what’s actually wrong and make insurance more affordable. Tens of thousands of insurance jobs in Wisconsin would be at risk under a government-controlled system.

How odd is it that can I take my cell phone number with me when I change cell phone carriers, but I can’t take my health insurance carrier with me when I change employers? Making health insurance portable by the individual, and providing individuals with the same tax deduction for premiums that businesses receive, would go a long way to addressing the affordability issue.

Ending government mandates on insurance would cause prices to drop significantly. Why can’t consumers be allowed to choose a low-cost, basic insurance policy? One person’s needs may be more or less than another; those unfunded mandates force insurance companies to charge all customers more.

I like my freedom of choice and so do our employees. Why should one group of Americans force the rest of us into a government monopoly system that will provide lower quality and slower service at a higher price? I fear that a government-run system will be just like waiting in line at the driver’s license office — long lines, impersonal service, and no choices. Take a number!

We simply cannot afford a government-run health system; the cost will bankrupt the country. Congress’ own estimates placed the cost at $2.5 trillion just to get started. President Obama and Democrats in Congress have already increased our deficit by more than $1 trillion per year, the national debt already exceeds $12 trillion, and Medicare and Social Security are facing bankruptcy. Adding another $2.5 trillion to the debt for a system that will make health care more expensive while lowering quality is a huge mistake that will haunt our children and grandchildren.

Conclusion: These are solutions that we can implement right now. Any reform needs to put the consumer in control and at the center. Unfortunately, under the plan pushed by Washington, the government would have been first, front, and center.

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