Washington, April 1, 2009 –Medical costs are rising too fast, the quality of service is uneven and too many people have difficulty getting or keeping insurance coverage. Both left and right agree on the need to reform the American health care system. But not all agree on the best way to address these problems.
Today, the Health Policy Consensus Group, a coalition of experts from market-oriented think tanks, released a statement identifying what they consider six policy deal-breakers—policies that, if included in health reform legislation expected this year, would force conservative organizations to oppose it.
The statement identifies what Robert Moffit, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies, called “the Six Shalt-Nots” of health reform. All appear in President Obama’s health plan, as well as several other proposals put together by congressional leadership. Characterizing them as “flawed prescriptions for radical change [that] should not be accepted as part of any serious and sustainable health reform proposal,” the group cites the following six provisions:
- A new government-sponsored health insurance plan. The government would inevitably use its regulatory, pricing and taxing authority to favor its plan, the Consensus Group writes. A government plan could artificially under-price private plans, driving them out of this one-sided “marketplace” and leaving consumers with no coverage alternatives.
- A move to force employers to provide health insurance. “It’s a political certainty that any new health insurance tax will be set lower than the current levels at which employers now fund coverage,” the experts say. That would entice many to transfer their employees’ insurance coverage to the mercies of the new government plan.
- A uniform, government-defined package of benefits. When insurance benefits are determined politically rather than by what individuals and families want in the marketplace, the benefits package expands and costs explode. Workers would pay for this more expensive coverage through lower wages, lost jobs, higher taxes, and lower-value health care, the panel says.
- A mandate that individuals must purchase insurance. Sweeping government mandates create a conflict between escalating costs, limited resources and the false guarantee of rich coverage, often triggering price and supply controls. Positive incentives can dramatically expand coverage without resorting to a mandate. To make the mandate work, the government would have to impose binding penalties on individuals who don’t comply.
- A National Health Insurance Exchange that extends federal regulatory powers over private insurance.”This would steamroll over private choice and patient preferences by providing a vehicle to extend sweeping federal regulation into virtually every corner of our health sector,” the experts warn. This would reduce choice for patients and discourage or prohibit innovation and flexibility in health insurance offerings that today are helping many companies and families balance their health costs with other needs.
- Federal interference in the practice of medicine through a federal health board, comparative effectiveness review or other government intrusions into medical decision-making. The clear and present danger is that any centralized health board will use the cover of comparative effectiveness findings to meet budgetary bottom lines, at the expense of patients’ medical needs and personal preferences. This is a particular danger to the health of people who suffer from rare conditions or who need access to specific medicines and personalized treatments but who may lack the political power to influence the reviewers’ decisions.
Because of these “six fatal flaws,” Moffit said, “the Consensus Group believes that the industrial age, top-down proposals put forth by the administration and congressional leaders would undermine choice, competition and innovation in our health care system, rather than improve it.”
The group is comprised of health policy experts from the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Galen Institute, The Heritage Foundation, the Independence Institute, the Institute for Policy Innovation, the Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation, the National Center for Policy Analysis, the Pacific Research Institute. The members insist that health reforms can and must expand personal freedom and improve the quality of American medical care through competition and innovation.
The statement notes that President Barack Obama has articulated much the same goals. During the campaign he pledged: “If you’ve got health care already, you can keep your plan if you are satisfied with it. You can keep your choice of doctor.”
Echoing the group statement, Moffit added, “We believe a better functioning, more competitive and transparent marketplace would cover more people and deliver the higher-value care Americans seek.”
To access the entire statement, go to www.galen.org