The New Congress Should Propose Free-Market Health Care Reforms

WashingtonDC from – – by – Paul Hsieh

As we prepare to ring in 2015, we will see a new Congress as well as a New Year. When the Republicans take over both houses of Congress, they’ll have an unprecedented opportunity to reshape the health care debate in a positive direction.

Ever since capturing the House in 2011, Republicans have voted more than 50 times to “repeal, dismantle, or defund” ObamaCare — to no avail. Opposing ObamaCare is not enough. Instead, The GOP should couple those efforts with their own positive free-market alternative to ObamaCare.

The good news is that there is no shortage of good alternative plans to ObamaCare that Congress could rally behind. Their proposal doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as it’s a clear improvement to ObamaCare (and to the dysfunctional pre-ObamaCare system).

For example, Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett has proposed a nice set of free-market reforms in a recent USA Today column. The advocacy group Docs4PatientCare has long promoted its “Prescription for Health Care Reform.” At the beginning of the ObamaCare debates, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey proposed “The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare.”

Some of the common elements in these (and other similar) plans include:

  • Eliminating mandated insurance benefits, and allowing insurers to sell lean “catastrophic only” coverage plans. For many Americans, such plans in conjunction with a Health Savings Account for routine predictable expenses would cover all their foreseeable health issues.
  • Allowing insurers to sell policies across state lines. This would immediately create brisk competition in a national marketplace (as opposed to 50 smaller state markets.)
  • Equalizing the tax status of employer-provided vs. individually purchased insurance. This would help uncouple the economically perverse linkage between insurance and employment.
  • Eliminating price controls that essentially force the young and healthy to subsidize the insurance costs of older sicker patients.

Although one could debate the merits of specific individual points of these plans, any of them would be a good starting point in crafting an alternative to ObamaCare.

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