By Hal C. Scherz, MD and Richard A. Armstrong, MD
As a politician in America today, if you have changed your position on a policy decision, you have not flip- flopped, but instead you have evolved. So says President Obama.
This brings us to healthcare reform and Mitt Romney.
Governor Romney is the best candidate for effective healthcare reform in America. His vision addresses the problems in healthcare which won't be solved by the Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare). The Massachusetts healthcare plan shares similarities with the ACA, and Governor Romney must clearly explain to the public how the Massachusetts experience differs from the national plan. But this is not the political liability which some say is damaging to Romney.
His experience in Massachusetts is an asset because it is consistent with the intent of our nation’s founders- that states would be laboratories of government. So despite assertions that the Governor is flip-flopping on health care, he is simply doing what all successful managers do; he is learning, or in Obama parlance- evolving. He understands that the Massachusetts model is inapplicable in every state. He has an opportunity to control this narrative and explain the reasons for this evolution of thought.
The Massachusetts experiment has been met with mixed reviews among Bay Staters. As an experienced executive, Romney understands that the Massachusetts plan was not the panacea for health system reform that many had hoped but is quick to point out that this is the beauty of state programs which can serve as proving grounds for vetting ideas- good ones which may be workable in other states, as well as bad ones which can be discarded. He simply needs to explain the obvious; that the errors in Massachusetts should not be applied to the nation. Instead, the ACA should be repealed and Congress should work with a chief executive who will honestly tackle the root problems in healthcare- Governor Romney.
So how can the case be made that Romney will be the better healthcare president? It is based on two of his core principles- preservation of individual rights, and getting America back on its feet economically by helping business, not punishing it.
Preserving individual rights as it relates to healthcare simply means- who should be making the medical decisions that affect your family- you and your doctor, or the government? Mr. Romney believes in personal responsibility and has promised the repeal of Obamacare, which will return healthcare responsibility to the patients, but he wants to go much further. Instead of a mandate, he wants to make it attractive to purchase health insurance by giving individuals the same tax incentives that businesses have enjoyed since 1943.
Allowing insurance to be purchased across state lines and creating a market based model where people can shop for policies with benefits that they need and not ones that they will never use. This will drive costs down and make insurance more affordable. He supports health savings accounts and high deductible policies- both phased out under Obamacare. This creates better healthcare consumers- something that always happens when people spend their own money instead of someone else’s.
Romney also wants to extend these same benefits to individuals covered by government run healthcare plans such as Medicare and Medicaid. By converting these to defined contribution plans and allowing patients to go to insurance companies competing in an open market for this business, the high cost of health insurance will plummet and patients gain more control over their individual health care decisions.
In 2009, the healthcare sector was the only part of the economy that grew and added jobs (except for government). At $2.4T annually, it accounts for 1/6 of our GDP. Obamacare places unnecessary burdens on the economy. Full implementation of this massive bureaucratic plan is fiscally unsustainable. Businesses are determining whether they can comply with the law and provide health insurance for employees.
There is so much uncertainty that they are paralyzed and consequently are not hiring. Companies that manufacture medical devices are being “shaken down” by the federal government and asked to pay taxes on gross sales, not just profits. Physicians in small private practices- the essence of American small business- are being crushed by government over-regulation and are either closing their doors or being forced to sell out to hospitals, often at “fire-sale” prices.
Under President Romney, we can expect the yoke of big government to be removed from around the necks of businesses with the repeal of Obamacare. Healthcare related businesses will thrive and those who have fled the US along with their jobs will return. The private practice of medicine will not be exterminated- something we can expect on the path we are currently on.
There is little doubt that Governor Romney is the best hope for healthcare reform in America. Ed Klein summed up the extent of Obama’s healthcare knowledge in the title of his new book: “The Amateur”. It is not he, but Romney who owns this debate. Mr. Romney should seize this opportunity to explain why the Obama administration chose the wrong path to secure America’s health care future.
Hal C. Scherz, MD is the Founder and President of Docs4PatientCare, VP of Georgia Urology, and Associate Clinical Professor Urology- Emory University.
Richard A. Armstrong, MD is the Chief Operating Officer of Docs4PatientCare, an organization of concerned physicians committed to the establishment of a health care system that preserves the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship.