Here's a better way to reform health care
When the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed its health-care bill, it brought America one step closer to merging our nation's health system with an intrusive, heavy-handed government.
Although Democrats hailed this bill as health-care reform, it is really just the architecture for what will one day become a government-run, single-payer system. With a price tag estimated to be more than $1 trillion, it also shows Washington Democrats have no plans to curb their runaway spending.
As the debate shifts to the Senate, the prospects of an improved bill don't appear likely. The $849 billion bill currently being considered is equally alarming with its unhealthy prescription of higher taxes on the middle class and small businesses, higher premiums and fees, increased regulation through individual mandates and penalties, and more government-run bureaucracy that will undermine the patient-doctor relationship.
The bill also would expand a financially unsustainable Medicaid entitlement program that is already straining state budgets. And it would fundamentally hurt Medicare by taking away access to Medicare Advantage plans and installing a new government bureaucracy to oversee Medicare reimbursements.
Altogether, these so-called reforms would hurt the ability of Americans to keep the coverage they are satisfied with, threaten the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship and bring the nation closer to a single-payer system. Americans deserve better.
As the Senate opens debate on its own health-care bill, it should reassess the underlying problems facing our system today. For starters, we must accurately diagnose the problem. America does not have a health-care problem. But America does have a health-insurance problem; not enough affordable choices exist while costs continue to rise.
As a result, millions of Americans do not have health insurance because they have either lost their jobs or because the private market cannot offer more options that meet their unique needs at prices they can afford.
Thus, any solution should ultimately seek to promote a vibrant private market where individuals can buy health insurance the way we buy auto insurance — independent of our employer, with the kind of flexibility and coverage we need, and at affordable prices.
What American health care needs today are reforms that promote competition, empower patients with more high-quality health-care options, combat fraud and integrate the latest technologies to make the system more efficient and the patient better informed.
Any health-care bill should reject a government-run public option. It should instead strive to make health care portable, make medical expenses tax-deductible, incentivize health-savings accounts and allow small businesses to band together through association health plans that help them get the same discounts larger businesses have. Allowing people to buy insurance across state lines will also help lower premiums by offering people more choices.
We must insist on a bill that features medical-liability reform that will reduce frivolous lawsuits. By not having to operate under the constant threat of lawsuit abuse, doctors will no longer feel forced to order unnecessary tests and procedures that drive up wasteful health-care spending.
As the health-care debate proceeds, we must never forget that our nation has the world's most formidable health-care innovators and professionals who are helping Americans lead longer and healthier lives. They, not government bureaucrats, are best equipped to meet the needs of patients.
President Obama and the Democrat Congress should abandon their current path toward a government-run, single-payer system and instead pursue common-sense reforms that will truly reduce costs, increase options and leave doctors and patients in charge of a health-care system that serves as a shining example that the rest of the world's health-care systems strive to emulate.
Marco Rubio of Miami is a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.