The Winds of Health Care Change

I just touched down from a trip to Orlando to attend the Employers Council for Flexible Compensation’s post election session called The Winds of Change. It was a meeting designed to unpack the results of the national election results and to try to get a sense of what it all means for the future health care in general and tax-preferred benefits plans (FSA, HRA, and HSA) in particular.

The keynote speaker was Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, a public policy organization founded in 1995 to promote informed debate over free-market ideas for health reform.

Ms. Turner recapped some of the health care reform proposals that have been flying around Washington since the Democratic victories earlier this month. Ideas like:

  • Community rating
  • Subsidies for low income people
  • State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) reform and mandated insurance for children
  • An insurance exchange
  • Pay or play mandates

All of these are anathema to anyone who has advocated for free-market reforms to attack the two-headed headed monster (access and cost) that health care has become in this country. Turner pointed out the real culprit to be poor lifestyle choices by citing a study that found that behavior contributed to 40% of the country’s early deaths versus 10% that were attributed to a lack of health care. Another key statistic she cited was a survey showing that 80% of Americans think that the current system is good to excellent.

So, if 40% of our health problems are caused by our bad behaviors and 80% of us think that the current system is ok, should we look to through out the whole system in favor of something that will probably not work as well and will certainly cost more?

Instead of making fundamental changes to the current system, Turner suggested making incremental changes to the existing employer-based system. Changes like:

  • Creating fairness in the current tax subsidies for the self-employed
  • Guaranteeing access to health coverage to hoses with pre-existing conditions
  • Finding new ways for people to group together to buy more affordable coverage such as churches and civic organizations.

Health Innovation Take: Health care reform should be a priority and it is inextricably connected to fixing the economy, so let’s hope Washington takes Turner’s sensible approach of keeping the best of what we have and making incremental improvements to the system that will effectively address the issues of access and cost.

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