Is there anything in your life you think would be better if it were run by government bureaucrats? For most of us, the answer is a laughable “No.” — Newt Gingrich
The American people generally like the care they’re getting in our health care system, but they’re unhappy about the cost. This leads to a conundrum because the government plan being discussed leaves Americans with only two options: leave the system as it is or destroy the quality of our healthcare and increase the cost to boot.
Of course politicians, being politicians, never quite phrase it like that. Instead, they’re promising everything to everyone. They’re going to cover more people, the quality is going to be just as good, and they’re going to reduce costs — but come on, is there anyone who actually believes that?
Just look to Medicare. The program is scheduled to go into the red in 2019 and the unfunded cost of the program by some estimates comes out to $68.1 trillion. With that kind of track record, why would anyone trust the government to get health care costs under control?
Setting aside the Medicare disaster, when has the government ever done anything cheaper or more efficiently than the private sector? Since when does an army of bureaucrats carrying reams of government regulations do a better, cheaper job than entrepreneurs who make a living based on how well they serve their customers? This is why estimates for Obamacare are already coming in at more than 1.6 trillion dollars.
Since increased government control of the system will mean less efficiency and higher costs, what can they do to keep expenses from getting totally out of control? The only option they have under the system being considered would be to destroy what Americans love most about the system: the quality. They can underpay doctors, which will lead to shortages. They can refuse to invest in the best new drugs and medical technology. They can force people to wait for months or even years to get operations that they only have to wait weeks or even days for today. Worst of all, as Barack Obama has suggested, they can save money by simply denying senior citizens needed operations.
However, there are better alternatives. We can reduce the cost of care without destroying the quality. There are many ways to do this, but some of the most effective would include:
1) Allowing people to buy insurance from anywhere in the United States: One of the reasons health care insurance is so high is the limited competition. Why not set up some basic standards and let insurers from all across the country compete for your business? The more competition, the more companies will have to fight for your business, and the cheaper insurance will be for all Americans.
2) Tort reform: Not only do the tremendous costs of lawsuits require doctors to pay enormous fees to get malpractice insurance that are passed on to consumers, many doctors engage in defensive medicine to try to avoid lawsuits. They prescribe useless tests and exams that are expensive and have little to do with the patient’s health and a lot to do with protecting themselves in court — and the costs are considerable. A study in 2000, for example, estimated the cost of defensive medicine to be 70 billion dollars a year.
3) Reforming Medicare: Those who do want Obamacare would do well to reform Medicare first. According to a Council of Economic Advisers Report, “nearly 30 percent of Medicare’s costs could be saved without adverse health consequences.” This is rather amazing data for two reasons.
First off, Medicare dramatically underpays for the people it covers. This has led to a lot of doctors refusing to take new Medicare patients while others have passed the costs the government doesn’t pay on to other customers. Put another way, if you’re not on Medicare, you’re paying significantly higher bills to compensate for the government’s refusal to pay a fair rate for health care services. Secondly, if this much waste is in the Medicare system, would it shock anyone if Obamacare squandered a similar percentage of our money? By simply fixing Medicare, costs for the rest of us could be significantly curtailed and for those who believe Obamacare could work, it would provide some proof that the system isn’t the disaster in the making it appears to be.
4) Giving tax credits for health insurance to individuals, instead of businesses: This would make health care portable and because more than a few individuals would choose to get cheaper plans rather than the “gold plated plans” at many big companies, it would enable more Americans to be covered for the same money, which would drive down prices.
We can have better, cheaper health care in this country that covers more Americans without destroying the quality or putting overbearing bureaucrats in charge of the system. We can do that not with more government, but by empowering Americans with more choice and competition.