The fatal conceits of Obamacare are the absurd notions that the government can spend your money more wisely than you can and that bureaucrats are more capable than you are to make your own most intimate, personal decisions. The antithesis of government-centered Obamacare is what I simply call “Patientcare.” Patients should be at the center of our health care universe, not President Obama and not the government.
Nearly two decades ago when I started medical school, I realized that no matter what the politicians do, or what administrators or anyone else say, all that ultimately matters is the care I provide to my patients. Everything else is secondary. At every level of a health care system, a simple question should be asked: What is best for patients? Not what’s best for government or lawyers or even doctors, but patients.
Patient-centered health care — Patientcare — looks like this:
Tax fairness: Eliminate ill-conceived taxes that have the perverse effect of preventing Americans from acting responsibly and purchasing individual insurance. If your boss pays for your insurance — with money he would have otherwise paid directly to you — then he understandably wants a say about your medical treatment, your private behavior and even your weight. Tax fairness would allow patients to purchase their own insurance and keep their employers out of their private examination rooms.
Insurance portability: When health insurance is decoupled from employment — as is auto insurance — you no longer risk being stuck in a job you hate for medical reasons. Moreover, when patients have their own policies, the insurance companies are finally forced to listen to them. If they don’t treat you right, you can fire them and hire another — just like you can your auto-insurance company.
Medicare Advantage: Nothing is more cruel than making promises to patients that cannot be kept and, quite simply, Medicare is insolvent and cannot keep its promises. The U.S. government is already the world’s biggest denier of medical claims. Part of the solution: Give patients the freedom to voluntarily enroll in premium-assistance programs like Medicare Advantage, where they own their own policies, rather than being subject to the rationing whims of unaccountable bureaucrats.
Health savings accounts: HSAs put patients in the driver’s seat. They are incentivized to keep an eye on costs yet funds are still available if — and this is the key — the patient himself decides it’s necessary. Patients who avoid wasteful spending are rewarded by keeping the savings. Unlike government rationing, HSAs reduce spending without compromising health care results. As Dr. Ben Carson says, when a child is born, he should be given a birth certificate and a health savings account.
End government monopolies: This is simple. Competition provides patients with more options, lower costs and better services. Equally true: Monopolies kill competition. Each state has created its own insurance monopoly, or at least cartel, by larding up health insurance with mandates to cover whichever services are offered by those providers who can hire the best lobbyists. These mandates protect the insurance companies and doctors at the expense of millions of patients who can no longer afford the high-priced insurance. The same holds true with medical licensing that protects doctors from competition. Your state should open its borders and allow reciprocity for physicians and carriers licensed in other states to practice medicine and offer more products to compete for your business.
Eliminate frivolous lawsuits: Patients pay a hidden “lawsuit tax” embedded in every medical procedure, pill and product, and hundreds of billions of dollars are wasted on defensive medicine. Patients should be protected not just from harmful doctors, but also from harmful lawyers, who are enriched by our current lottery lawsuit system.
Help the needy: Obamacare unleashes the worst approach to those in need. It artificially hikes health care costs beyond their means and then provides welfare to families — even those earning up to $94,000 a year — that still won’t cover the new, higher rates. That’s a double disaster, since taxpayers who now have to pay for their own higher premiums also must cover the welfare, not only for the needy, but even for their affluent neighbors. This is a train with too many cabooses and not enough engines, which will come crashing down the hill. For far less, we could, for example, simply give cash to needy families so they can purchase their own market-based insurance.
These are common-sense reform measures and, unlike Obamacare, they remain true to one guiding principle: Put patients first.
The president’s health care leviathan is already showing signs of collapse under its own weight. The Obamacare lies of universal coverage, cost savings and deficit reduction have been exposed, and even one of its own architects now admits that the law is “beyond comprehension” and predicts a “huge train wreck” that, after its bad start, “will just simply get worse.” Indeed.
It’s time to prepare for the post-Obamacare era. It’s time to build a system that finally puts patients first. It’s time for Patientcare.
Dr. Milton R. Wolf is a radiologist and a contributor to The Washington Times.