About those Republican Ideas for Health Care Reform

One Democratic talking point is that the Republicans have been sitting on the sidelines and complaining, instead of offering ideas of their own to solve the current problems. This idea was prominent in the Sunday talk shows. Watch for it in the President’s address to Congress tonight. The Democrats, like Congresswoman Maxine Waters D-Nutsville on This Week With George Stephanopoulos, who said You’ve had your opportunity. You don’t have a bill. Where’s your bill? What have you come up with? What are you offering as an alternative? This President has reached across the aisle. He’s done everything. He’s stroked. He’s cajoled. He’s begged. But the Republicans are not supporting him. It’s bigger than healthcare. This is about President Obama, and the Republicans have decided to use this by which to bring him down.

I respectfully ask Ms Waters to STFU, if it please the court. The Republicans have offered many ideas to improve our current health care system. Two at the top of the list:

  1. Selling health insurance across state lines
  2. Tort reform

Both have some merit. According to the Wall Street Journal, in New Jersey, the annual cost of an individual plan for a 25-year-old male in 2006 was $5,880, Kentucky–where an annual plan for a 25-year-old male cost less than $1,000. Some of that is caused by the higher cost of medical care in New Jersey, but the majority is caused by the State of New Jersey mandating Cadillac plans for the citizens of New Jersey. According to Devon Herrick at the Heartland Institute:

Differing regulations and mandates among the states cause wide variations in individual health insurance rates. The federal McCarran-Ferguson Act, which permitted states to set their own requirements for coverage, has protected state markets from competition and led to an assortment of mandates–many of which the insured do not want or need. For example:

* About one-fourth of states require health insurance to cover acupuncture and marriage counseling.

* More than half of states require coverage for social workers, and 60 percent mandate coverage for contraceptives.

* Seven states require coverage for hairpieces, and nine for hearing aids.

In all, there are more than 1,900 state mandates across the United States. Some legislators contribute to this excess by giving in to special interests’ demands that insurers cover their specific services and providers. The result is higher premiums for consumers–pricing an estimated one-fourth of the uninsured out of the market by this means alone.
According to Tom Daschle on This Week, selling insurance across state lines would be a race to the bottom as states compete for the lowest cost insurance offerings. Doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me.

And how about tort reform. Sarah Palin suggests such a solution.

As Dr. Scott Gottlieb recently noted, If Mr. Obama is serious about lowering costs, he’ll need to reform the economic structures in medicine–especially programs like Medicare. [footnote in original] Two examples of these economic structures are high malpractice insurance premiums foisted on physicians (and ultimately passed on to consumers as high health care costs) and the billions wasted on defensive medicine.

Dr. Stuart Weinstein, with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, recently explained the problem:

“The medical liability crisis has had many unintended consequences, most notably a decrease in access to care in a growing number of states and an increase in healthcare costs.
Access is affected as physicians move their practices to states with lower liability rates and change their practice patterns to reduce or eliminate high-risk services. When one considers that half of all neurosurgeons–as well as one third of all orthopedic surgeons, one third of all emergency physicians, and one third of all trauma surgeons–are sued each year, is it any wonder that 70 percent of emergency departments are at risk because they lack available on-call specialist coverage?” [footnote in original]

Dr. Weinstein makes good points, points completely ignored by President Obama. Dr. Weinstein details the costs that our out-of-control tort system are causing the health care industry and notes research that found that liability reforms could reduce defensive medicine practices, leading to a 5 percent to 9 percent reduction in medical expenditures without any effect on mortality or medical complications.
Read the whole thing. Beats the Sunday shows by a mile.

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