Healthcare has been tied to employers for far too long. Employers offer health benefits because the current federal tax code exempts employer-sponsored health plans. Employees save money by buying health insurance through an employer using pre-tax dollars. This model no longer works for the multitude of self-employed people in the job market today. Additionally, Hospitals hide prices from consumers, so that the consumer doesn’t even know what they are until they receive a bill.
To add even more complexity to the issue; insurance companies themselves face barriers based on individual state by state laws. US health insurance is regulated by individual state insurance Commissions. The significant variations between state regulations make it impossible to compare policies and premiums. There is a broad variety of mandated benefits between states.
We need to remove barriers to entry for providers and remove the link to employers. People can choose car insurance, homeowners insurance and life insurance on the private market. With some sensible laws that allow all people to obtain coverage, health insurance could be made more available to all people at affordable prices. Individual market plans would be required to cover pre-existing conditions. High-risk pools would be funded by the funding used for subsidies and the Medicaid expansion.
Health Savings Accounts should also be made available to everyone. This account promotes savings and individual responsibility. When people are spending their own money they become better consumers which leads to more efficiencies in the marketplace.
Hospitals should be required to show prices publicly so that consumers can make an informed choice both on cost and quality. Also, we need to institute a national policy so that health insurance companies can write health insurance plans that are easily compared. “Now some states — including Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon -- are moving to control costs of state employee health plans. Their strategy: Use Medicare reimbursement rates to recalibrate how they pay hospitals”(NPR,2019).
When we shine a light on these murky business practices, a knowledgeable consumer will be able to make smarter decisions. There are many ways we can reduce the cost of healthcare and make it more efficient which can lead to less spending at the government and individual level.
New York Times Sept.26,2019
NPR Mar. 20,2019
KFF/Los Angeles Times on May 2, 2019