Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sen. Judson Hill (GA): All Health Care Reform is Not Created Equal

With Democratic control of both the White House and Congress, national health care reform has a better chance of passing now than any time in recent history. Americans agree that change in our health care system is necessary. Escalating health care and insurance premiums are unsustainable for most families, businesses and all levels of government. Every day it becomes more and more evident that all health care reform is not created equal.

Conservatives have worked for years to change the fundamentals of health care and health care financing to achieve a patient centered, prevention focused, free market system. Many moderates and liberals want government-based health care reform in which the government provides for everyone and health care is “free.” National leaders are advancing numerous reform proposals. Yes, America needs health care reform, but be careful which version you ask for because as the saying goes, “choose your rut in the road carefully since you’ll be in it for the next 100 miles”.

Political experts today will tell you that some sort of health care reform will pass. Any national health care reform measures that survive the political hurdles necessary to become law will be very difficult to change in the future. You and I have a vested interest in which reform proposal actually becomes law.

Early free market successes have begun in several states. These conservative initiatives offer healthier outcomes, stabilized costs, and tax savings and incentives for individual responsibility. For example, Georgia law now incentivizes people to choose healthy behaviors by actually allowing health insurance companies to partially refund premiums to people who stay healthy. But to date, no insurance company has refunded premiums. It’s time we ask them why not?

Three simple conservative steps would improve health care, lower costs and reduce the number of people without health insurance. First, all insurance should be owned by the individual so your financial security and health care coverage is not at risk just because you left your job and lost your company’s insurance. Second, everyone should be able to pay for health care and health insurance with before tax dollars. And third, we should reward personal responsibility and healthy choices with lower insurance premiums.

Governments can and should transform their health care programs. Taxpayers cannot afford to expand and sustain Medicare and Medicaid programs. Instead millions of dollars can be saved by allowing qualified, lower income earners to use their government health care assistance subsidy as a scholarship to buy private health insurance through their employer. In most cases this is a much less expensive option that provides better and more accessible health care. Under such a plan, physician reimbursements for government programs are higher and state taxpayers would save millions of dollars.

If America chooses a national more socialized plan similar to government plans in Western Europe, there will be a huge price to pay. The consequences of this choice are monumental and long-term. European and Canadian health care is characterized by delayed treatments, rationing of care, exorbitant taxpayer costs and sometimes the loss of life. In these countries people with higher incomes purchase private insurance to get to the” head of the line” for better treatment for themselves and their families. Those who chose to buy private insurance continue to pay much higher taxes for national care to cover everyone else. Europeans and Canadians even come to the U.S. to find better health care with easier access for treatment, and yet our government wants to put forth a similar government plan.

Earlier this year the Obama Administration and the Democrat controlled Congress quickly rushed through billions of government spending in the federal “stimulus” bill. Health care reforms cannot be rushed. Health care delivery and financing is too complex. Although Democrats in Congress may have the votes, now is not the time to “just pass” health care reform legislation and then fill in the blanks later. This is not the time to experiment. The details matter too much because lives are at risk.

As we work toward health care reform, everyone should answer three questions and then call their representatives. “What type of reform do you want - patient centered or government centered?” “Should our government be in the health care business or should we incentivize physician-patient relationships?” And finally, “Which health care reform measure encourages and incentives personal responsibility for your health?” Your answers to these questions are vital because if you think health care is expensive now, just wait until you see the costs when it is “free.”
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