Real Healthcare Reform: Competition and Choice
The choice facing us now is not between Obama's plan for healthcare micromanaged by the government or doing nothing. Rather, it is a choice between government control, regulation and rationing on one hand, and free markets, choice and competition on the other. That is the real healthcare debate.
So what exactly would a free-market approach to reform look like? Quite simply, it relies on those time-tested building blocks of marketplace efficiency: competition and choice.
1. We need to move away from a system dominated by employer-provided health insurance and instead make health insurance personal and portable, controlled by the individual rather than government or an employer. Employment-based insurance hides much of the true cost of healthcare to consumers, thereby encouraging overconsumption. It also limits consumer choice, because employers get the final say in what type of insurance a worker will receive.
2. Changing from employer-provided to individually purchased insurance requires changing the tax treatment of health insurance. The current system excludes the value of employer-provided insurance from a worker's taxable income. However, a worker purchasing health insurance on his own must do so with after-tax dollars. This provides a significant financial reward for those who have employer-provided insurance. That should be reversed.
3. The other part of effective healthcare reform involves increasing competition among both insurers and health providers. Current regulations establish monopolies and cartels in both industries. Today, for example, people can't purchase health insurance across state lines. And because different states have very different regulations and mandates, costs can vary widely depending on where you live.
4. We also need to rethink medical licensing laws to encourage greater competition among providers. Nurse practitioners, physician assistants, midwives and other non-physician practitioners should have far greater ability to treat patients. We also should be encouraging such innovations in delivery as medical clinics in retail outlets.
~Michael Tanner, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, in the Sunday Los Angeles Times