Yesterday, I published an article about the health care debate, from the stand point of the legislation winding its way through Congress. The bill being argued before members of the House and the Senate promises reform, but will it really deliver?
Ask a diverse group of one hundred Americans if they think that our nation’s health care needs to be reformed and I’m sure that most people would agree that it does. Even Americans who are covered by excellent health care plans know the system can be improved, but not everyone wants the federal government to exert more control over the system.
So instead of digging deeper into the actual bill itself, the following are some ideas to consider when bringing about effective health care reform:
Break Down Barriers – Right now, if you live in New York but have found a plan in Idaho that you like, you cannot buy it even if it is much cheaper. As it currently stands you can only buy insurance from companies offering to you in your state which, as you might guess, drives up premiums. Competition comes along (and lower prices with it) when barriers are removed. Let Americans buy their health insurance from any company approved to sell it in the United States and you’ll cut out tens of billions of dollars of waste.
Fix Medicare, Medicaid – We already have a pair of national health care plans in place although their coverage is not universal. Medicare provides health care coverage for Americans who are 65 or older; Medicaid provides health care of low-income children and adults; long-term care for people who are disabled; and additional help for seniors who are poor. Both plans waste tens of billions of dollars annually and need to be overhauled. If Medicare and Medicaid remain broken, then what can we expect out of a national health care plan that will be many times larger?
Make Insurance Portable – When people lose or quit their jobs, they often lose their health care. Under the right circumstances, former employees qualify for COBRA coverage which allows them to purchase their health care through their former employer plus pay a 2% service fee for up to eighteen months. Why not extend COBRA to three years while also offering the option for small businesses, freelancers and the unemployed to pool their resources to purchase insurance?
Malpractice Tort Reform – Did you know that some surgeons pay upwards of $200,000 annually for malpractice insurance? This is crazy! The reason why their insurance is so expensive is that lawyers have gotten into the game. Lawsuits that award money far beyond what anyone needs is adding to the cost of healthcare. By capping the system (especially legal fees) costs will be lowered. The medical community passes on its malpractice costs to the consumer in the form of higher health care fees.
Get More Practitioners – There aren’t enough doctors in the field to serve everyone and that problem is likely to grow worse under national health care. And why is that? Because, the government will control costs including what doctors make which means that doctors will not only have the government dictating care but holding down wages. Why not provide funding to help more people become doctors or nurse practitioners, the latter who can see some patients and prescribe medicines and at a lower cost.
Clearly, I am not a health care expert but I do see that some problems could be best handled if barriers were removed, access improved and options opened. Perhaps a national safety net offering catastrophic insurance would be a good approach to take as well, a step which would ensure that consumers would never be financially devastated by a debilitating illness.
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