By Lawrence Zupan
As your next U.S. senator, I will work to ensure you and all other Americans receive high-quality, comprehensive, affordable health care. Together we can empower a healthier, more prosperous America.
For that reason, I will not support Obama-style single-payer health insurance that my opponent, Bernie Sanders, has pushed on Americans for decades, to the detriment of our national wellness and economy. “Guaranteed free health care for all” is guaranteed only to financially crush every American. Everyone will pay directly or indirectly a share of the estimated $32 trillion it will cost to operate. Our current system is too costly because the consumer does not directly experience the sticker shock of paying, say, $200 for a pill that cost 50 cents to make. Bureaucracy and crony profiteering likewise are hidden. Only in recent years has this shocking, cumulative over-charging become too pronounced to hide behind subsidies, premiums and deductibles.
There’s got to be a better way. And there is. It’s called “let consumers decide.”
All other types of insurers compete for our business. They vie to protect our homes from fires and storm damage, our cars from major collisions, and our families from our premature death or disability. They strive to offer the best coverage at the lowest price. They affirm consumer choice by offering low-cost/basic coverage to the thrifty, and higher cost/higher coverage to the risk-averse. Their advertising practically begs us to compare costs and buy the cheapest insurance. It’s so easy, even a caveman could do it.
That’s what consumer choice for the insured looks like. It works. And it will work for health care insurance too if Americans and Congress will choose the better way: insure against health catastrophe, but for other health care expenses, pay-as-you-go.
This may sound scary. It needn’t be. It’s being practiced with successful care and financial outcomes here in America right now. Most of us don’t buy dental treatment insurance because we find it prohibitively expensive. Instead the dentist charges X to fill a cavity, Y for a crown. It’s a consumer choice: we take care of our teeth and go to the dentist less, rather than pay steep monthly premiums for dental insurance. Meanwhile the dentist makes a good living, too.
More and more, primary care practices are charging fees-for-service that favor the consumer. Patients can shop around for the best price, service and care. Word gets around, either through word-of-mouth or intentional marketing. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) help families budget these non-catastrophic, more-or-less routine health care expenses. The doctors are able to charge less because, unshackled from guaranteed pricing of government-run insurance, they can demand better deals from pharmaceutical and medical supply vendors.
Surgical practices are getting into fee-for-services, too. The Surgery Center of Oklahoma practices “free market, state of the art” surgery. Their home page shows a drawing of the human body and invites the consumer to click on what kind of surgery they need. Within seconds they know what the surgery will cost, and are offered a financing package. It’s that simple and consumer-driven.
Working for our benefit is the powerful hand of human creativity. Successful people working in a competitive environment are always looking for a way to do it better and cheaper. Subsidized government monopolies remove this incentive. When there is no encouragement to improve the status quo, why bother?
Alongside this movement towards more choice for consumers of health services, we need to throw open the doors of interstate competition for all health insurance carriers, and remove needless restrictions that prevent them from wanting to enter a given market. This will drive up the innovation and quality of their service, and drive down the cost of their service, particularly here in Vermont, but throughout our country as well.
Transitioning from government-run insurance to consumer-driven health care won’t be simple, easy or seamless. But the bottom line is that we pay too much for health care. Empowering consumers will lift much of the burden. Together, an energized national economy and a streamlined insurance system will be more able to deliver excellence in health care to those who cannot afford it.
Lawrence Zupan, a resident of Manchester, is the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate.