Thoughts on the Health Care Reform Debate

At one end of the debate over appropriate and necessary health care reform is Obamacare, which is rather easily characterized as a heavy-handed approach laden with government intervention. It will be a huge challenge for yet another layer of governmental bureaucracy to solve the problems inherent in the health care needs of over 300,000,000 Americans. Consider now that even some in President Obama's party are now having strong regrets over the passage of Obamacare. "I think we would have all been better off – President Obama politically, Democrats in Congress, and the nation would have been better off – if we had dealt first with the financial system and the other related economic issues, and then come back to health care" (Rep. Brad Miller, D-NC).

Besides tort reform, the Republican approach is to put the citizens of the United States, rather than government bureaucrats, in charge of health care.  The Republicans have several ideas that are of real substance to achieve this. The first would be to set up more functional "high-risk" pools that would allow individuals with pre-existing conditions to obtain health insurance that would otherwise cost a fortune. Next, extend tax breaks to individuals, affiliated groups, and small businesses so that health insurance can be more easily purchased. This tax break, now only extended generally to larger employers, would dramatically expand coverage to the uninsured. A third idea is to expand the portability of health insurance by allowing cross-state purchase of health insurance. This model has been very effective for lowering the cost of automobile insurance – so why not do the same with health care coverage? The motto here should be "don't fence me in!"

A more hands-off approach includes ideas such as allowing people to escape from Medicaid by providing them with health credits so they can purchase private coverage as necessary. Currently, over half of all doctors will no longer take patients in a program (Medicaid) that has typically addressed poor people. Legislation has been introduced to prohibit insurers from imposing annual or lifetime limits on spending for coverage. This legislation would prohibit insurers from canceling a policy after a person becomes sick. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) will also have severe limits placed on them by Obamacare, and this is clearly a move that will discourage those who want to be more responsible stewards of their health care resources. Government should encourage responsible behavior, not discouraged it. Individuals cherish freedom and the autonomy to make their own decisions whenever possible.

Investing in a new government program is bad business, and will not be fair to those who are willing and able to be responsible citizens – free from dependency on government programs. These alternatives to Obamacare seek to address those individuals who need the help the most, and that is a goal all people of good will can share in. "There will be no meaningful cost control or improvement in health care until we are all cost controllers in our own right"  (Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels). All citizens of the United states should be encouraged to strive for the highest levels of personal responsibility and, when they can't, we should all be willing to help those who, through no fault of their own, may well slip through the cracks in the health care system. Let's be creative and build on what we have with health care and not tear it apart at great expense. Otherwise, we risk as a nation not even being able to help those who may need health care the most – the poor and underserved.