Before President Obama's health care law was passed, Americans were frustrated that insurance companies had too much control over the medical care they received. Now, Americans are frustrated that the government has too much control.
The vast majority of Americans don't want insurance companies and government making health-related decisions for them; they want to make such decisions for themselves. Three straightforward but significant modifications to the health care law could make that possible.
First, relax the individual mandate so that everyone who buys major medical insurance coverage is exempt. Obama has already allowed this for those who lost their insurance because of his law, but the exemption should be available to all.
Second, provide transparency in pricing. When people are selecting their insurance, they should be able to see how much a major medical plan would cost, as well as each additional bit of coverage. It is impossible to have a serious discussion about the cost of care without letting people know what these costs are.
Third, put workers in charge of their own insurance decisions. If an employer offers a comprehensive plan to its employees, workers should be able to drop the coverage they don't want and keep the change. This should be structured so there is no tax penalty for those who take fewer benefits. With the transparency of knowing what various levels of coverage cost, workers could make informed choices about the appropriate trade-offs between medical insurance and take-home pay.
That's it. These three changes would empower mainstream Americans, because we have more power when acting as consumers than we do as voters. It would force insurance companies to compete for our business and offer options that make sense. Such competition would reduce the cost of care. At the end of the day, it would mean less money going to insurance companies, and more money being available for the basic necessities of life.
It would also reduce the bureaucracy and red tape that makes the medical care industry so unfriendly to consumers. Service would become friendlier and more convenient. Doctors could focus on serving patients rather than insurance companies and government regulators.
These three steps would be popular with voters and give them control over their own medical care decisions. But it won't end the ongoing effort to improve the health and medical care of the American people. For example, the question of what subsidies are appropriate for lower-income Americans, and how to pay for them, will remain a topic of debate. But with the overall costs of care going down, it would be an easier problem to solve.
Additionally, some states might put their own minimum coverage requirements into effect. California, for example, might stick to the current requirements, while Texas might not add any additional hurdles for consumers. States might also take different approaches to buying insurance across state lines.
As long as consumers are in charge, it's OK. The experimentation and differing state laws would help us see what types of reforms really make sense. States whose regulations are too heavy or too light will lose businesses and residents. Those with the best policies will benefit.
When it comes to medical care, it's wrong to put the insurance companies in charge. It's wrong to put the federal government in charge. True reform means giving power to the people.