By Dean Clancy
Forty percent of voters say the high and rising cost of health care represents a “crisis,” according to a recent poll. A majority (56 percent) say they feel “helpless” when dealing with the U.S. healthcare system — that the system is in charge, not them.
Voters are right. Medical prices are rising faster than inflation. The share of the family budget devoted to healthcare has nearly doubled since 2000, from 13 percent to 25 percent of the median family’s household income. It is getting hard for patients these days to find doctors and hospitals who will accept their insurance, and even harder to find doctors who will spend sufficient time with them.
Happily, there is a better option. We call it the ‘Personal Option.’
This approach fixes what’s broken in our system, keeps what works, and gives patients what they want — more control, lower prices, and less hassle — without more bureaucracy or red tape.
How ‘Health Care Fairness for All’ Works
The best vehicle for achieving a Personal Option is the Health Care Fairness for All Act, a brilliant new bill authored by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX). It does three significant things:
- It reforms federal health tax subsidies to fund patients instead of insurance companies.
- It lets every American have a tax-advantaged health savings account (HSA).
- It removes needless barriers between patients and the medical professionals they trust.
In short, it puts patients in charge, so we can reduce prices and improve quality without, as in Britain, limiting patients’ access to the latest and best treatments.
Health Care Tax Credit
The heart of the bill is a new universal, voucher-like healthcare tax credit available to everyone under 65. It is worth $4,000 a year for every adult and $2,000 for every child. The chronically ill would receive extra help. Using the credit would be optional — you could keep your current plan if you wanted.
For the first time, every single American would have access to the same generous amount of federal help for their medical costs. The healthcare safety net would have no holes.
An adult couple with two children would receive $12,000 every year, enough for a good health insurance plan tailored to their individual needs, which could be purchased through their workplace or an online marketplace. They could also use the credit to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses. And what they had left over each year they could save or invest in an HSA for future needs. Anyone, including an employer, could put money directly into the HSA.
Employers would still sponsor health benefits for their workers, as they do today, but those benefits would now be portable from job to job and between jobs.
Fixing Insurance Roadblocks
To bring down insurance prices, the bill would make commonsense changes to federal regulations while maintaining guaranteed protections for people with preexisting conditions.
Importantly, people with preexisting conditions would have an extra layer of protection against discrimination because premiums would be risk-adjusted. Insurers could no longer make money by cherry-picking only the healthiest customers and avoiding paying claims when they get sick.
And the bill reduces insurance company meddling by removing barriers to “direct patient care,” an exciting subscription-based model that offers patients unparalleled, round-the-clock access to their favorite doctors, lab tests, and imaging for one low monthly fee, with no hidden fees. DPC patients enjoy personalized service, often with same- or next-day appointments.
Finally, the bill removes needless barriers to competition. For example, it lifts a decades-old government ban on physician-owned hospitals. Barring a physician from owning a hospital makes as much sense as prohibiting a mechanic from owning a garage or a hairstylist from owning a salon.
Voters are right. Healthcare has become too expensive and impersonal. But “Medicare for All” is the wrong prescription. Instead, Americans want and deserve a Personal Option, a set of sensible reforms that empower patients instead of insurance companies — reforms such as those found in the Health Care Fairness for All Act.
Dean Clancy (DClancy@afphq.org) is a senior health policy fellow at Americans for Prosperity. A version of this article was published in the Washington Examiner on May 22, 2023. Reprinted with permission