Tallahassee Democrat, February 8, 2008
Ideas about fixing the American health-care system, including market-based answers for providing services, were the focus Thursday at a forum on the campus of Florida State University.
Sponsored by The James Madison Institute, a Tallahassee think tank, the event attracted speakers from across the country. The experts addressed the health-care challenges the country is facing and particular issues expected to affect Florida as its population ages in the coming decades.
Several of the speakers said the free enterprise system would solve many of the problems, and they had varying methods of achieving that goal.
With the Florida Legislature’s session beginning March 4, institute President Bob McClure said the forum was a means of disseminating information to those who will be making decisions on Florida’s health-care future.
With speakers from Texas, California and other regions, the forum’s attendees heard the challenges facing bellwether states in different parts of the country. McClure said policy makers in the state will be exposed to things that work, or do not, elsewhere.
“You don’t say ‘Hey I like that plan. It will work in Florida,’” McClure said. “What we say is, ‘I like that plan. What parts of it will work in Florida?’”
With an estimated 47 million people in the country uninsured, speakers argued that a free enterprise approach in the health-care industry is more practical than a universal health-care system because it would spur practitioners and insurance companies to increase their level of proficiency in order to remain in business.
“Normal people think in tens and hundreds of dollars, not millions, billions and trillions,” said Jim Frogue, project director for the Center for Health Transformation. “The average person sitting at home is cynical because they don’t think politicians will do all these things.”
Based in Washington, D.C., Frogue’s organization was founded by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 2003 to plan and prepare for a better health-care future. He paraphrased Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s comment during a presidential debate – “We don’t have a health-care crisis, but a health crisis” – to describe some of the problems.
Health insurance isn’t what people want, Frogue argued. What people want is access to health care when they want it.
On the day when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney shut down his presidential campaign, his 2006 universal health plan was cited during the forum as an example of all that is wrong with mandated health care.
Pacific Research Institute President Sally Pipes said systems similar to the one Romney implemented will lead to a single-pay system where people must wait an average of 18 weeks to see a primary-care physician, which is the case in her native Canada.
Noting “access to a waiting list is not the same as access to health care,” Pipes said her experiences in Canada have led her to believe a universal health care system wouldn’t work in this country.
“Insurance should be there for catastrophes, not (for) an employer,” Pipes said, referring to the 88 percent of businesses that offer only one health-care solution. “Government got us into this situation and we have to get government out of our lives.”