Saturday, January 26, 2008

Health care solutions without Socialism

If you listen to the MSM, you would think that socialism is the only solution available for fixing health care in the USA. It's a ridiculous assumption, when you consider how many people DIE while waiting for treatment in countries where the government controls health care. If America embraces socialist medicine, where will the Canadians go for their health care? We need to fix what we have, not copy an inferior system.

During World War II, wage controls in the US prohibited cash raises, so employers started giving non cash benefits, like health insurance, to attract workers. After the war, the practice continued. Now decades later, many Americans have unfortunately gotten the idea into their heads that their employer is responsible for providing their health care. There is an assumption that it's someone else's responsibility to provide it for us, instead of providing it for ourselves.

If employers stopped providing health insurance, and we were allowed to shop around and buy our own insurance across state lines from whoever we chose, the free market would sort it out, competition would drive prices down making insurance rates much more affordable. Why should it be forbidden to us to buy health insurance from an insurer in another state? Restricting competition is keeping prices so high; the free market isn't given a chance.

The Democrats keep advocating "Socialized" Medicine, more government, as the answer, despite it's abysmal record elsewhere. What are conservatives offering? Not enough, it would seem. I think that is why we are seeing Socialist "Republicans" like Mike Huckabee gaining popularity. People want affordable health care. Conservatives have ideas for achieving that, but are they doing enough to bring it about? Unless costs are brought down, the answer from most people would probably be "no".

Yet there are non-socialist solutions to be found. Republican Mitt Romney, while Governor of Massachusetts, tackled the problem by creating universal health insurance without new taxes or government agencies:

Romney to the Rescue
[...] As the new governor, Romney consolidated state agencies, cut employees, and closed what he called loopholes in the corporate tax code. He also tackled the most difficult public policy issue of all, health insurance.

With input from the Heritage Foundation, Romney came up with a way to provide universal health insurance by requiring that everyone buy coverage, just as drivers are required to buy car insurance. If they don't, they lose their personal exemption on their state income taxes and part of their state tax refund. The idea was that in a reformed marketplace, everyone has the responsibility to have health insurance - no more free riders.

For those who cannot afford coverage, Romney cobbled together funds from Medicaid and the state's free-care pool to make sure everyone is covered.

By merging individual and group plans, Romney covered more healthy individuals, lowering prices.


Romney likes to contrast his health-care plan with the one proposed by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. "My plan is based on personal responsibility and allowing the free market to work in a more effective manner," he says. "Her approach was to build a large government bureaucracy and provide more controls to help the health-care system work."

He adds with a smile: "Perhaps the biggest difference between our two plans was that mine got passed, and hers didn't."

States such as Iowa, California, and New Jersey are looking into adopting the Massachusetts approach, and Bush is pushing other states to look into it. To conservatives who bristle at the idea of an imposed plan, Romney says, "The key factor that some of my libertarian friends forget is that today, everybody who doesn't have insurance is getting free coverage from government." [... ]

I'd like to see more ideas like this from Republicans, more private sector and free-market solutions. That is an arena in which Romney excels, and hopefully we will be hearing more from him on this important issue. Here is another solution without government involvement. From Nealz Nuze:

Somewhere across the country, a Hillary staffer is having a breakdown ... private healthcare offered directly from doctors? This is going backwards for the universal healthcare nuts. We need more government, not less! But now we have this program in Rhode Island called HealthAccessRI. You pay $30 for a "membership" in a primary care doctor's practice and you get 24-hour telephone access, sick visits, well child care, check-ups, school and sports physicals, family planning and yearly physicals. Each office visit is just $10. Thirty dollars! That's less than a cell phone bill or one tank of gas. Now this is not an insurance program – and politicians are already quick to point that out – but it offers an affordable solution for primary care. And it didn't take government to do it! All it took was a group of doctors. The private sector! There are now 21 participating doctors, brought together by Michael D. Fine who is taking the program statewide. [...]

Why can't we have more solutions like this from the private sector, that cut out insurance completely? Affordable pay-as-you-go treatment?

Related Links:

How to fix healthcare

Lowering Health Care Costs for Everyone

Health Insurance and Medical Expenses

There's No Place Like Home:
What I learned from my wife's month in the British medical system.

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