Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, was an overnight sensation with his speech to the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month. As President Obama listened, Dr. Carson's keynote address challenged political correctness, demanded a better educational system, urged enactment of a flat tax and made a case for health savings accounts to be issued at birth, which would replace Obamacare.
Perhaps it wasn't the most promising forum, since in the present environment common sense often doesn't have a prayer, but Dr. Carson's remarks inspired the millions yearning for someone to articulate conservative solutions to national problems. The doctor's most intriguing idea is to replace government-controlled health care with health care centered on the patient.
"We spend a lot of money on health care, twice as much per capita as [any other country] in the world," he said, "and yet [we are] not very efficient . . . Here's my solution: When a person is born, give him or her a birth certificate, an electronic medical record and a health savings account to which money can be contributed pre-tax from the time the person is born until the time he or she dies." For the indigent, the government would make contributions directly to the accounts rather than passing money through the bureaucracy, as now happens. "Now they have some control over their own health care," the doctor said.
By combining a qualified health plan with a tax-deductible savings account, consumers can seek out the best deal in health care without the restrictions imposed by HMO or bureaucrat. Despite promises that Obamacare would reduce the cost of health care, business owners nationwide are learning how much more expensive Obamacare really is.
Health savings accounts have exploded in popularity. From 2005 to 2011, health care account enrollment rose from 1 million to more than 13.5 million people, making it the fastest growing health insurance in the United States. According to J. Kevin A. McKechnie, the executive director of the American Bankers Association's health savings account council, 2012 enrollment numbers constitute "a tsunami."
Consumers appreciate the lack of "use-it-or-lose-it" for unspent funds and the ability to invest portions of the balance in mutual funds. Dr. Carson would take this policy one step further, making such accounts the foundation of American health care policy.
As Obamacare takes effect, setting off a health insurance price tsunami, millions more are expected to take shelter in health savings accounts. This is a low-cost option that will work to keep healthy consumers in the insurance pool. Unfortunately, Democrats are likely to do their best to minimize adoption of a health care alternative that minimizes government control.
Repeal of Obamacare failed in the wake of President Obama's re-election. Dr. Carson's idea for a cradle-to-grave alternative might be a better prescription for Republicans to push in the next election cycle. It's worth a long look.
The Washington Times
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