[Guest post by DRJ]
In the interest of transparency, President Obama has invited Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders to attend a bipartisan televised half-day health care summit on February 25. The parties disagree on the agenda for the summit — Republicans want to start over while Obama and Democratic leaders want to tinker with the existing legislation.
Hugh Hewitt suggests three areas Republicans attending the summit should focus on:
Tort reform. Interstate health care policies. Economic vitality without massive debt: “Therefore we will use our last presentation to acquaint you and your colleagues with the details of Congressman Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap,” which we believe could be enacted in parallel with comprehensive health care reform thus setting our domestic policy house in order.”
These are good ideas, but I’d like to see something more comprehensive — like the 8-point proposal offered by Whole Foods’ CEO John Mackey last August. Mackey’s list includes the first two on Hewitt’s list and six more that I think are worthy of discussion:
1. “Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts (HSAs). The combination of high-deductible health insurance and HSAs is one solution that could solve many of our health-care problems.”
2. “Equalize the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits. Now employer health insurance benefits are fully tax deductible, but individual health insurance is not. This is unfair.”
3. “Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines. We should all have the legal right to purchase health insurance from any insurance company in any state and we should be able use that insurance wherever we live. Health insurance should be portable.”
4. “Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover. These mandates have increased the cost of health insurance by billions of dollars. What is insured and what is not insured should be determined by individual customer preferences and not through special-interest lobbying.”
5. “Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. These costs are passed back to us through much higher prices for health care.”
6. “Make costs transparent so that consumers understand what health-care treatments cost. How many people know the total cost of their last doctor’s visit and how that total breaks down? What other goods or services do we buy without knowing how much they will cost us?”
7. “Enact Medicare reform. We need to face up to the actuarial fact that Medicare is heading towards bankruptcy and enact reforms that create greater patient empowerment, choice and responsibility.”
8. “Finally, revise tax forms to make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren’t covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.”
There are several benefits to Mackey’s proposal. It speaks to most of the problems people have with existing health care policies and addresses the uninsured. It includes a way to achieve transparency not only in how our leaders talk about health care but also in the information patients get about their health care costs.
In addition, it can be enacted in stages and deals with both current and future problems, especially Medicare. Medicare is already paying out more than it collects and will be “officially” bankrupt by 2017 at the latest. Dealing with Medicare is important from a financial standpoint but it also gives Republicans a way to be proactive rather than reactive, and thereby counter Democratic claims that it is the Party of No.