Universal Coverage Achievable Without More Government

September 7, 2009 by  

Saturday, September 05, 2009

We all want the same thing – protection from catastrophic illness and the security of affordable health coverage in the future.  To their credit, Americans have read the bills working their way through Congress and are objecting to the health care rationing and control over their health care quality and decisions. Can we achieve health care solutions without Obamacare?  Absolutely! 

The exponential increase of Americans under 65 owning Health Savings Accounts (growing 30-40% each year since their advent in 2003) signals a marked shift towards patients rather than insurance companies directing their health care – and with positive results.  41% of these were previously inunsured and nearly half have incomes of $50,000 or less.  Studies show they are offered more wellness incentives and are more likely to use preventive care.  Congress’ plans to Federalize the insurance industry and impose mandates would stop this progress.

Plus, Arizonans will have more lower cost insurance options since our reform-minded Legislature changed the law this session, allowing options without all of the benefits. Why should everyone be forced to buy the same “Cadillac” coverage – including costly benefits such as maternity for adopted children or drug treatment – when one without meets their needs?

“Government-approved” mandate-laden insurance, as proposed by Congress and that Massachusetts passed, greatly increases premiums, causes over-utilization of services, under-compliance and fewer choices – especially for the young and healthy who would rather pay penalties than high priced premiums.

Arizona also passed significant medical liability reform this session which will bring doctors to the state and discourage defensive medicine practices to avoid frivolous malpractice lawsuits. Ninety-three percent of U.S. physicians admit to practicing defensive medicine at a cost of $210 billion in 2008 and another $865 billion in indirect costs annually.  These are reforms the President and Congress have rejected completely.

Nearly one in five Arizonans lacks health coverage largely due to government’s failure, not market failure, to correct the perverse incentives and over-regulation that drive up costs in both. Before selling yet another government panacea to the American people – Congress should stop the billions of dollars of waste in the Medicaid and Medicare systems – moving them towards solvency. To increase competition it should enable cross-state purchasing and stop the tax discrimination preventing affordable and portable insurance for individuals.

If, in the end, heavy-handed policies are forced upon the states, Arizona will have Constitutional protection – the Arizona Health Care Freedom Act – as a defense if passed next year at the ballot. At last count, 19 other states are taking similar stands against government intrusion into their health care decisions and mandates.

Critics of the vocal opposition to Congress’ plans, consistently claim opponents support the status quo and are fine leaving the uninsured problem unresolved. But thorough reporting of the patient-centered reform proposals in Congress – such as individual tax credits – and policies transforming health care in Arizona and other states – like risk pools – would add balance to the discussion.

We are witnessing engaged Americans who stand ready for an honest debate on health care reform. Choosing which direction it takes is not above their pay grade and may even give real hope to those whose only hope, we’re told, lies in more government control and loss of their own.

Nancy Barto is the Chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee in the Arizona House of Representatives and represents District 7.

This article appeared in the Arizona Republic (Scottsdale Edition), the Arizona Capitol Times and Camp Verde Area News Saturday, Sept. 6, 2009.

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