Health Care: The Conservative Alternative in the Senate

Now that the American people have clearly indicated their disdain for the public option as a Trojan horse for government-run health care, concerned citizens should demand that members of Congress look to other alternatives.

This spring we introduced a comprehensive health care reform bill, the Patients’ Choice Act, along with U.S. Representatives Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Devin Nunes (R-CA), that delivers on the stated goals of both parties — improving health care choices, access and affordability — without adding billions of dollars in new debt or taxes. In fact, according to independent estimates, our bill could save taxpayers at least $70 billion and states more than $960 billion over the next ten years.

What makes the Patients’ Choice Act the best alternative, we believe, is that it correctly identifies the true problems in our complex health care system and lays out specific solutions to those problems.

The health care bills moving through Congress have stalled because they provide heavy-handed, higher cost solutions to exaggerated problems while providing no solutions to more fundamental problems. The Left has framed the debate as one about 47 million uninsured Americans. In reality, if the uninsured are measured as people who want to buy insurance but cannot because of cost or pre-existing conditions, the number drops from 47 million to about 11 million. The worst way to help that 11 million is to set up a government-run system that will ration care, beginning with the 11 million who do not have the means to escape a government-run plan.

There are two core problems in health care that need fixing — a lack of information and a lack of choice for consumers. In this regard, more government control and decision-making will only make matters worse. To understand how much government is already interfering with your health care, imagine if when you wanted to buy a new car, but all of the auto company websites had been disabled and you were directed to a third-party site set up by Congress that buried basic information about automobile features and price. Then imagine that if you lived in New Jersey you must buy certain features, however costly, but if you lived in California you had to buy another set of features. Then imagine that Congress set up a system where you did not really shop for your car at all because your employer and the government took care of the details.

Of course, health insurance is not a commodity like cars, computers or televisions, but the fact remains that the only way to control costs and improve access in any area of the economy is by setting up a transparent market that allows individual consumers to make informed decisions. In every other sector of our economy, costs skyrocket when consumers and separated from basic economic decisions. The lack of basic information about health care — the good and bad doctors, cost, and outcomes, etc.– is an outrage in the information age.

Our bill fixes this core problem by shifting decision-making authority in health care away from government and health insurance bureaucrats and back to individuals. Specifically, we would shift health care tax benefits to individuals and families in the form of a tax rebate worth $2,200 for individuals and $5,700 for families. Under our plan, if you like the health care you have, you can keep it — but you will have more money in your pocket because you will still receive a tax rebate.

Our bill has other important features, all of which are designed to set up a healthy market that creates the right incentives for individuals and private insurance companies to control costs. We end cherry picking, the egregious practice of insurance companies denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, with a mix of reforms that includes more carrots than sticks. An important distinction is that we trust you, not the government, to keep insurance companies honest. We also incentivize prevention, crack down on Medicare and Medicaid fraud and limit lawsuit abuse, which could help reduce costs by well over 10 percent.

The most important message we want the American people to understand in the health care debate is this: You are not in charge, but you need to be. The American people themselves understand much of this intuitively and have told Washington in plain language that they do not want the government to control their health care. With the worst reforms hopefully beaten back, the American people have a chance to champion real reform. We can achieve universal access to quality, affordable health care without bankrupting our children. It can be done. The Patients’ Choice Act shows us how by putting you back in charge of your own health care.