Republicans do not support Barack Obama’s economic stimulus bill, nor are they too keen on the democratic approach to healthcare reform. Congressman Paul Ryan outlined an alternative approach to healthcare reform at the recent Medicare Policy Summit conference. His key points:
1. All Americans should have access to the same health benefits that federal employees have. They receive a medical savings account, with subsidies offered when they are sick, according to their need. Full support is available for low-income beneficiaries, while partial support is offered to high income beneficiaries. Ryan argues that targeting Medicare according to need will keep the program solvent (rather than offering full coverage to the very wealthy, etc.)
2. Tax credits should provide the basis for healthcare coverage so that individuals are not dependent on their employers for health insurance. Individuals would purchase their own health insurance either via their employer or on an open market that would promote competition between the plans to drive prices down. Individuals would be able to keep the remainder of their tax credit if they select a health plan that costs less than their yearly credit.
3. Americans will be allowed to purchase health insurance across state lines, allowing them further coverage options and increasing competition among the plans to decrease costs.
4. Small businesses may join a national group (Associations Health Plans) to pool risks and drive down the cost of providing health insurance to their employees.
5. States would create “high risk pools” for people with pre-existing conditions who could not afford insurance premiums. Federal funding would help to offset the cost of insuring these individuals.
Ryan explained that the Ways and Means Committee that oversees Medicare is basically “a bunch of politicians sitting in a room playing Caesar – giving either a thumb’s up or thumb’s down to healthcare reform and finance issues.” He warns that they will be doing a lot more of that if America continues on its current course of “more regulation, with the federal government dictating the practice of medicine, and rationing our healthcare.”
Ryan’s predictions are grim:
1. Within 2 years 17% of our economy will move from the private sector column to the public sector column.
2. Pete Stark will lead the charge for an Institute of Comparative Effectiveness to direct care choices in medicine. Physicians will have fewer treatment options to offer their patients.
3. Small health plans will go out of business, leaving only a few large plans, with decreased competition and fewer choices for consumers.
For more information about Ryan’s views, please check out The Roadmap For America’s Future.