Recently President Obama said he wants to meet with both Democrats and Republicans to sift through the best health care ideas from both sides. He challenged Republicans—who to this point have opposed Obama’s health care bill—saying, “if you have a better idea, show it to me.” In an attempt to answer the call, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and John Goodman, CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, laid out ten ideas for Obama to consider in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed.
The WSJ article begins by stating that “the best ideas out there are not those that were passed by the House and Senate last year, which consist of more spending, more regulations and more bureaucracy. If the president is serious about building a system that delivers more quality choices at lower cost for every American, here’s where he should start:”
Make insurance affordable – The current taxation of health insurance is arbitrary and unfair, giving lavish subsidies to some, like those who get Cadillac coverage from their employers, and almost no relief to people who have to buy their own. More equitable tax treatment would lower costs for individuals and families. Many health economists conclude that tax relief for health insurance should be a fixed-dollar amount, independent of the amount of insurance purchased. A step in the right direction would be to give Americans the choice of a generous tax credit or the ability to deduct the value of their health insurance up to a certain amount.
Make health insurance portable – The first step toward genuine portability—and the best way of solving the problems of pre-existing conditions—is to change federal policy. Employers should be encouraged to provide employees with insurance that travels with them from job to job and in and out of the labor market. Also, individuals should have the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines. When insurers compete for consumers, prices will fall and quality will improve.
Allow doctors and patients to control costs – Doctors and patients are currently trapped by government-imposed payment rates. Under Medicare, doctors are not paid if they communicate with their patients by phone or e-mail. Medicare pays by task—there is a list of about 7,500—but doctors do not get paid to advise patients on how to lower their drug costs or how to comparison shop on the Web. In short, they get paid when people are sick, not to keep them healthy.
So long as total cost to the government does not rise and quality of care does not suffer, doctors should have the freedom to repackage and reprice their services. And payment should take into account the quality of the care that is delivered. Once physicians are liberated under Medicare, private insurers will follow.
Inform consumers – Patients need to have clear, reliable data about cost and quality before they make decisions about their care. But finding such information is virtually impossible. Sources like Medicare claims data (stripped of patient information) can help consumers answer important questions about their care. Government data—paid for by the taxpayers—can answer these questions and should be made public.
Eliminate junk lawsuits – Last year the president pledged to consider civil justice reform. We do not need to study or test medical malpractice any longer: The current system is broken. States across the country—Texas in particular—have already implemented key reforms including liability protection for using health information technology or following clinical standards of care; caps on non-economic damages; loser pays laws; and new alternative dispute resolution where patients get compensated for unexpected, adverse medical outcomes without lawyers, courtrooms, judges and juries.
For the full list of GOP proposals to President Obama, click here. And if you’ve got some ideas of your own, we’d love to hear them; just leave a comment below.