Americans are profoundly concerned about healthcare, and it is appropriate that, as candidates, we offer our solutions to this problem. However, we must speak honestly to the American people about the most important of questions: What exactly is the problem with the American healthcare system?
The biggest problem we face with healthcare is that it costs too muchand businesses and families pay more and more every yearfor what is too often inadequate attention or poor care. The cost affects nearly everything: government overspending, business costs, family budgets, as well as those who have insurance by making it more expensive to keep, and those who dont, making it even harder to attain. Those high costs, coupled with problems in Medicare and Social Security, are setting up a perfect storm that could cause the implosion of our healthcare system as we know it.
We currently spend $2.2 trillion16 cents of every dollar we spendon healthcare. By 2015, just a little over seven years from now, that number will nearly double to $4 trillion. By 2019, Medicare will be broke. We are currently spending more on Medicare than we are collecting in payroll taxes and cashing in the few IOUs left in the trust fund. In the meantime, more and more of our retirees Social Security checks will also go to pay for Medicare, leaving our seniors with less money for their everyday expenses. By 2017, more money will be going out of Social Security than is coming in. The next president must act to avert the impending storm.
Democratic presidential candidates are not telling you these truths. They offer their usual default position: If the government would only pay for insurance, everything would be fine. They promise universal coverage, whatever its cost, and the massive tax increases, mandates and government regulation that it imposes.
I offer a genuinely conservative vision for healthcare reform, which preserves the most essential value of American lives: freedom.
My reforms are built on the freedom to pursue three goals: paying only for quality medical care, having insurance choices that are diverse and responsive to individual needs, and restoring our sense of personal responsibility.
Right now, too much of the system is built on getting paid just for providing services, regardless of whether those services are necessary or produce quality care and outcomes. Lets put American families in charge of what to pay for using health savings accounts and tax credits of $2,500 ($5,000 for a family) to incentivize everyone to buy insurance.
We need to inform families about their medical choices and make every single provider transparent and accountable. Everyone should know what their care costs and the quality of the outcome, and should be able to pay only for the best outcomes, not for undergoing endless tests, procedures and office visits. Families place a high value on quickly getting simple care, and have shown a willingness to pay cash to get it. If walk-in clinics in retail outlets are the most convenient, cost-effective way for families to safely meet simple needs, why should government stand in their way? I will not.
Government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid should reform reimbursements, improve quality, lower costs, and focus on the expense and care for chronic disease that is so prevalent in an aging population. And in a system that rewards quality, Medicare should not pay for preventable medical errors.
To use tax credits for health insurance effectively, Americans need more choices. We should be able to buy our insurance in a competitive nationwide insurance market that will strip out excess costs, overhead and bloated executive compensation. Innovative insurance options that follow individuals from job to job, or job to home, or are automatically renewed for many years should be rewarded.
Some Americans are already content with the choices and advice offered by their employer-provided care. I do not want to fix what isnt broken. We should allow individuals to get insurance through any organization or association that they choose and trust. If a church or professional organization wishes to sponsor insurance for its members, they should be able to do so.
When an American family controls its own healthcare financing and has a wide variety of low-cost, innovative choices, policies will only disappear when that family decides it doesnt serve them as well as a competitor would.
The final important principle of reform is to rediscover our sense of personal responsibility. We must personally acquireand pass on to our childrena sense of personal responsibility for health, nutrition and exercise. In listing this principle last, I do not mean to diminish its importance. Rather, taking personal responsibility for our own wellness is the simplest and best way of avoiding chronic disease, which constitutes the vast bulk in healthcare spending.
We can build a healthcare system that is more responsive to our needs and is delivered to more people at a lower cost. The engine of our prosperity and progress has always been our freedom and the sense of responsibility for, and control of our own destiny, that freedom requires. My healthcare reform is built on these trusted and time-tested principles.