NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 23, 2007

The future of health-care reform got some momentum this week when Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn released a big-ideas blueprint for restructuring the entire health-care system -- the tax code, Medicare, tort liability, insurance laws -- along free-market lines, says Kimberley Strassel (Wall Street Journal).

Coburn's plan builds on the White House's own bold proposal in January to revamp tax laws so as to put consumers back in control of their health-care decisions.  Both plans are about fundamental, bottom-up health-care reforms, cast in the language of markets, consumers and individual control.

Coburn, like the White House, would remove the subsidy corporations get for health care, and instead give the money to individuals -- putting them in charge of their health expenditures.  The plan would:

  • Expand Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), and allow consumers to buy insurance from any state, thereby avoiding costly regulations.
  • Modernize Medicare, allowing workers to invest their payroll taxes into a savings account and control their care in their retirement years.
  • Free the states to inject Medicaid with new flexibility and competition.

Those on the free-market side are starting to understand the need for a new language, especially if they are to coax more nervous elements of their party into embracing radical change, says Strassel.

When President Bush unveiled his health-care tax overhaul in the State of the Union, he stressed that health-care decisions needed to be made by "patients and doctors," not government or insurance companies.  Coburn's bill summary is seeded with the words "choice," "empowerment," "competition," "flexibility," "control" -- which is not only an honest assessment of what his proposal would provide, but one with which Americans can identify, says Strassel.

Source: Kimberley Strassel, "Republican Rx," Wall Street Journal, March 23, 2007.

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