While there are serious problems with our health care system, the “Affordable Care Act” is not the solution. Republicans are correct to oppose it. I served several years on the state board of our professional insurance association. We learned that, in working with the Legislature, you can’t merely oppose legislation. You must offer a possible solution. The Romney campaign’s failure to do so was costly.
Permit me to outline some ideas that could help address the issues of cost and also help the involuntarily uninsured.
• Allow individuals to deduct insurance premiums on their tax returns.
• Allow a person to keep their health care policy when they move from one state to another.
• Allow a person who loses group benefits to have an individual policy with the insurer covering the group.
• Allow alternative benefits that a person losing a job can afford, rather than just the same and temporary benefits under COBRA.
• We need tort reform, not tort elimination. Limit malpractice lawsuits. Establish medical courts. The medical community needs to do much more to police their profession regarding malpractice.
• Strengthen medical savings accounts so that the insured has a stake in the cost of their care. Consumers need to be able to shop for health care and know the costs of what different providers offer. Note the effects in the laser eye surgery market.
• Have pre-existing open enrollment periods, as offered by Medicare, rather than enrollment after the event, like the ACA allows.
• Withdraw mandatory free care in hospital emergency rooms for non life-threatening situations. This is the biggest and costliest abuse.
• Allow insurance companies to offer a variety of programs for consumers to choose, not just coverage mandated by the government (such as maternity coverage). Competition drives down prices.
• Provide liability protection for insurance companies and agents regarding consumers who claim ignorance after signing state approved contracts. Consumers must be responsible for their decisions.
• Open subsidized clinics for the poor and those on Medicaid. Give Medicaid folks spending accounts so that they are responsible for how the money is spent.
I understand that some in Congress are working on these ideas. None of the above ideas require a massive increase in bureaucracy, regulations or the costs associated with complying. The ACA simply is a massive wage and price control project. In the 1970s, (President Richard) Nixon tried wage and price controls and, of course, they didn’t work. The Soviet Union and its former satellites were the premier laboratory for wage and price controls. Human nature will find a way around them. Individuals need to be allowed to make their own decisions, not government planners. The free market works.
Like the system before it, the ACA is full of special deals and benefits for the politically connected. We need solutions that benefit everyone equally. If we can offer solutions and show the public how they can work, people will listen and accept. That will be a refreshing change from the snake oil that has been peddled for the last four years.
Berkeley Springs, W.Va.