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Health Care Reform that Puts You in Control

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

President Obama seems committed to pushing through his version of health care reform whether we want it or not! Like his stimulus package, Americans wonder whether he will let politicians, much less citizens, read his plan before passing it! Everybody wants health care coverage as long as someone else pays the bill—employers, rich tax payers or the government! Unfortunately, at a time President Obama is promising more, the existing government health care plans and corporate entitlement programs are proving underfunded and unaffordable. But, what can be done?

America was built on personal freedom, personal responsibility, community and resourcefulness. Our self-reliant past can be a radical steppingstone to a more workable health care system for our future. We need a system that lets you take back control of your own health care needs.

Under such a plan, fears about portability would vanish. You wouldn’t be forced to stay in a job just to keep coverage. Prices would come out of the shadows as providers and insurance companies compete for your business. Instead of depending upon politicians or employers to look out for your interests, you’d be in control! You’d pick your own policy, making your health insurance portable, flexible and permanent!

To start, get employers out of the role of paying for health insurance. Let the money now spent on your coverage come to you as added income. To help offset the tax implications, give a health care tax credit to every American taxpayer.

Just as you are required to show evidence of liability insurance when you register or renew your vehicle registration, citizens should have to show evidence of major-medical insurance coverage when they file their taxes. Major medical plans have high deductibles but protect you from the high costs associated with serious illness. With everyone having to purchase a plan and companies competing for the business, the price for such coverage would come down.

Insurance companies should be required to cover all citizens without exclusions for prior conditions. Like the successful Swiss plan, a national high-risk fund could be established that all insurance companies contribute to that protects companies from suffering heavy losses in any given year. If necessary, as with utilities, a commission could be created to keep insurance company profit and coverage parameters reasonable.

To find coverage, marketplace resources would surface to give you access to more health insurance choices, better information, and more competitive prices. You use online searches to find the best price. Why not health care insurance and care?

Don’t require insurance to pay all health care costs. You don’t use auto insurance to pay for routine maintenance or our home insurance to pay for a paint job or plumbing repair. Health care coverage should be the same. Get coverage for the health care disasters with a deductible you can afford. Pay for the other costs yourself. When it’s your money you’re spending, you find the best deal!

Now, six-out-of-seven of your health care dollars are spent by third parties without any input from you. Choice matters. Milton Friedman used to say, “No one spends other people's money as carefully as he spends his own.” Competition has already worked for elective procedures—for facelifts, breast enhancements, hair grafts—those prices keep coming down because they’re not covered. When something’s free, you waste more. You eat more at an all-you-can-eat buffet than when you pick from a menu!

To help save for those occasional medical bills, all citizens should be encouraged to set aside money in tax free, health saving accounts to be used for medical expenses not covered by insurance. They exist at the federal level and in 48 states. It’s time to add California to that list!

We don’t need doctors for all care. In some states, nurse practitioners can open clinics and provide medical diagnosis and treatment. By 2013, companies like MinuteClinic and RediClinic will be operating over 6,000 retail healthcare clinics inside stores like CVS and Wal-Mart. Such clinics will save you time and money.

To promote prevention, good health habits should pay! In Switzerland, a healthy lifestyle saves you money on premiums. People might care more about their health habits if it resulted in a higher quality of life and lower healthcare costs.

Medications are often the treatment of choice and help us avoid more expensive, invasive treatments. Medications should be covered under major medical plans, but we should avoid price controls. Controls destroy the incentives for creating new drugs. Instead, focus on using generic drugs and avoiding unnecessary medications.

Demand national tort reform and realistic caps to help control frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits that add costs as well as unnecessary tests and procedures to protect those providing care. Institute standardized forms and digitized medical records to cut down administrative costs and increase efficiency, and establish a shared database of health care best practices.

Don’t fall for the illusion of “free” health care where someone else will pay for your care. Demand real reform that gives you control of your own health care and keeps the quality high!

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