Affordable Coverage, Dependable Care for All Americans

Between the rising cost of heath care and the expanding role of government, Americans are frustrated.  Economists predict that we will be spending 20 percent of our gross domestic product on health care by 2017. Now the President wants Congress to approve a scheme that effectively repeals Medicare and puts the treatment of seniors in the hands of a Federal Health Board with absolute authority to approve procedures and cut payments for essential quality-of-life care.

But we can find a bipartisan, workable solution that guarantees access for all Americans to dependable and affordable health care, maximizes the freedom to choose their own doctors, and protects their family coverage during seasons of unemployment.

Every American should have access to the private health insurance benefits that members of Congress have.  By opening the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program (FEHBP), Congress could make available just 14 competitively priced nationwide plans and more than 310 state plans. Rather than creating a form of nationalized, publicly-managed health care, access to the selection of private plans that members of Congress receive would safeguard patient choice and keep Washington bureaucrats out of the examination room.

Similarly, plans for affordable prescription drugs for all Americans can be accomplished without committing federal dollars to subsidize the costs.  Currently, cash-paying customers are charged a higher price for prescription drugs than insured customers.  Different prices for the same drug sold to different people ends up unfairly punishing the poor.  Prescription drug reform would incentivize cash transactions and reduce costs associated with credit card fees, check fees and billing that drive up the cost of health insurance.

And that’s not the only place where cost cuts are possible.  The price tag of medical malpractice insurance, for instance, is skyrocketing, and doctors pass the charges along to patients in hidden fees.  Runaway litigation costs and inflated malpractice awards are feeding a trend of defensive medicine where doctors and hospitals are often forced to perform unnecessary, expensive tests and procedures to avoid frivolous lawsuits. Addressing our health care crisis will therefore require sweeping tort reform that stops trial lawyers from poaching their profits in hospitals and doctor’s offices.

If every patient clearly understood the costs associated with defensive medicine and malpractice insurance, health care reform would be a much simpler task.  That’s why Congress must protect the right for people to make educated choices and, if desired, to consult with health care providers to reduce costs in exchange for liability limitations and targeted treatment. The widespread savings that such reform promises for every American would be dramatic and immediate.

Finally, the current economic crisis has awakened America to the harsh truth about unemployment and health insurance. For workers facing record layoffs, the difficult decision between paying for their family’s health coverage or other basic needs is a present reality.  As a key component of reform, unemployment insurance should cover the health care of displaced workers while they search for new jobs.

The Democrats’ plan, a 1,018 page bill entitled “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act,” won’t hold back the growth of government or protect our basic health care rights.  In his administration’s first six months alone, President Obama has proposed 33 new entitlement programs, 53 new federal bureaucracies and $1.28 trillion in deficit spending to address our health crisis.

Americans deserve better, and Congress needs to work on a bipartisan basis to address the health care crisis with dependable, affordable reforms.