NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 5, 2005

Many in Congress are using the public health crisis in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to seek huge -- and permanent -- expansion of existing federal health programs and to oppose fundamental reform of Medicaid. But we must avoid the nationalization of the healthcare system that followed in Europe after the devastation of World War II, says Robert Goldberg, director of the Manhattan Institute's Center for Medical Progress.

Instead, the government should help make medicine more personalized and portable. Goldberg recommends:

  • Creating a system of electronic patient records (EPR) and providing consumers with tax credits and vouchers for purchasing health care coverage that travels with them.
  • Accelerating efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services to establish wireless and Web-based communication systems in conjunction with EPRs.
  • Making the new EPR software available and create a public-private health information technology (IT) "strike force" to obtain, install and operate the systems.
  • Allocating demonstration grants for health information technology (IT) to the Katrina relief effort; this would supplement the nearly 3000 Red Cross IT volunteers spread out throughout the South.
  • Turning the Federal Emergency Management Agency's EPRs for each survivor over to private providers who can use it to promote continuity of better care.

Finally, health insurance should be made portable. As people travel from place to place to find jobs and rebuild their lives, they should not have to apply and reapply for insurance. Each family or individual should be given debit cards to pay for health care and insurance premiums. They should be able to buy coverage from anywhere in the country at a group rate. To support this latter change, HHS should create a catastrophic fund in cooperation with the affected states to encourage health plans to participate in the face of potentially expensive claims, says Goldberg.

Source: Robert Goldberg, "Heed the New Health-Care Crisis," Washington Times, September 23, 2005.


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