01 Mar 2014 Free-Market Fixes Could Still Save American Health Care, by Elaina F. George, MD
As “law of the land,” ObamaCare has already fundamentally changed American health care. Despite the partisan bickering and disastrous rollout, government has successfully inserted itself between doctors and patients — controlling everything from doctors’ treatment options to patient choices about coverage.
A group effort including the Obama Administration, liberal lawmakers, insurers, hospital companies and the pharmaceutical industry broke the doctor-patient relationship. But free-market alternatives remain to re-establish it and fix our health care woes.
While politicians focus on winning at all costs, a transfer of health and of wealth has begun. A two-tier system is evolving. It consists of those trapped under ObamaCare and those who can afford to opt-out to pursue the best treatment available.
ObamaCare’s foundational principle that everything will be rosy if everyone has health care is fundamentally flawed because having insurance is no guarantee of quality care.
The myth of unscrupulous doctors causing skyrocketing costs was dinned into our collective consciousness. It’s not true. In fact, an independent, private physician is actually the most cost-effective option — giving patients more power. The physician and the patient would have provided a powerful resource to fix a broken system. The former, acting as an advocate for patients, and the latter driven to find the best and most cost-effective health care.
Academic remedies such as interstate policy sales and keeping youth on their parents’ policies until the age of 26 are great talking points, but they don’t address how much insurers can charge for out-of-pocket fees or how they can deny coverage for certain care and procedures.
Instead of making the doctor-patient relationship the core of efficient, excellent, individualized, cost-effective health care, the middleman is now empowered. Bureaucratic layers of regulations will inevitably increase costs, borne by patients through longer wait times, rationed care and replacement of their trusted physician with less experienced physician assistants and nurse practitioners.
There is even a movement toward allowing pharmacists to write prescriptions and nurse practitioners and physician assistants to perform certain surgical procedures to increase access and cut costs. There is no way, however, to calculate the cost of a missed diagnosis or botched procedure in this one-size-fits-all conveyor belt-driven medical system now being constructed.
But the two-tier ObamaCare system can be broken by promoting free-market medicine, which is still alive and thriving.
Removing insurance companies and government middlemen would cause patient costs to drop precipitously. Patients once again could choose and have a quality relationship with a doctor, get procedures they want and know their costs up front.
Free market options are myriad and include:
- Urgent care centers staffed by board-certified ER physicians who charge flat fees that include x-rays, blood work and consultation, such as North Atlanta Urgent Care (www.atlantaurgentcare.com)
- Surgery centers that list prices, such as the Surgery Center of Oklahoma (www.surgerycenterok.com/pricing)
- Websites such as Medibid where one can bid for medical services (www.medibid.com)
- Doctors, including those at the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, who barter and have a sliding-fee scale (www.aapsonline.org)
- Cost-sharing organizations and ministries that are allowed under ObamaCare. For example, an individual paying $199 dollars per month to Liberty HealthShare (www.libertyhealthshare.org) can receive a million dollars of coverage per occurrence per year (no eye or dental) after a $500 deductible is met. Unlike insurance plans with network panels, resources are pooled and costs are shared — so members can see any doctor or go to any hospital because the company pays for the medical services for a self-pay negotiated rate.
- Supplemental plans offered by AFLAC actually pay patients after they have medical services such as surgical procedures or treatment for cancer. A website, the Self-Pay Patient (www.theselfpaypatient.com), acts as a one-stop shop for information on the free-market medical system.
Each of these free-market strategies provide an option to give patients true control of their health care in a system where there is true competition driven by innovation, customer service, collegiality and personal responsibility. It’s a dramatic difference from the cronyism, control and coercion that typifies the new era of ObamaCare.
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Dr. Elaina George, a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network, is a board-certified otolaryngologist and host of a weekly talk radio show, “Medicine On Call,” that explores health issues and the politics of medicine. Comments may be sent to [email protected].
Published by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.