- Require hospitals to be transparent about their costs and quality of care
- Work with medical professionals to regulate prices for procedures and pharmaceuticals
- Establish a public health insurance option
The cost of health care in the United States is skyrocketing. The Affordable Care Act, unfortunately, did not fix this problem.
I have three possible solutions in mind. I'm willing to fight for whichever one is most likely to gain traction with the Congress we have at the time. These solutions each may help the problem individually, or they can all function together:
1) The Market Solution: Healthcare costs vary wildly from hospital to hospital, and studies show that these costs are not strongly related to the quality of care offered at each hospital. An expensive hospital may offer poor care, and a cheaper hospital may offer quality care. The problem is that the public rarely knows which is which.
We should require hospitals to be transparent about their costs and their quality of care. Hospitals already report their quality of care to the federal government via Medicare reports. By requiring hospitals and other medical care centers to reveal price and quality data, the health care market would become more competitive. If patients can choose their healthcare provider based on quality and price, then competition will force hospitals to price their services competitively.
This plan would also force the government to enforce anti-trust laws, since healthcare providers already attempt to dodge competition by buying out other providers and creating a monopoly. We have the tools to stop this from happening, we just have to use them.
2) Federal Regulation: I am not a fan of the government attempting to set the prices of goods and services. Interfering in the market that way often backfires.
However, healthcare is different. The health and wellness of the American people is not a commodity, and shouldn't be treated that way. As in many other countries, the federal government can work with healthcare professionals to set and enforce appropriate prices for medical procedures.
3) A Public Option: For-profit health insurance companies face an inherent conflict of interest, since the best way for them to earn a profit is to avoid paying for the healthcare of their customers. I propose that the government should provide these companies serious competition in order to keep them honest.
Medicare For All is the ideal option, which would cover many basic medical services automatically, with reasonable out-of-pocket costs for patients.
However, the cost of this option scares many legislators, so as a compromise I also support a different government-run health insurance program. The program would not be free; it would charge customers based on the actual costs of the healthcare as well as the costs to administrate the program, so the program would not increase the tax burden. If anything, the program should operate at a slight profit, and those profits would be dedicated toward mitigating the costs of the existing Medicare and Medicaid programs.
The argument for privatization is generally that private companies operate more efficiently than public companies. So, if private health insurance companies can in fact provide cheaper health insurance and/or better service to customers than the public option and still turn a profit, then that's excellent. They should do so.
Meanwhile, the public option should still be available in order to keep competition honest and to always have an option available that prioritizes public health over profits.
All of these possible solutions will almost definitely face powerful opposition, as the healthcare lobby in America is very strong and well-funded. However, I believe we have an obligation to prioritize the health of the American people over the profits of the healthcare industry. Moreover, I believe that we can find solutions that can both ease the healthcare burden on the American people AND allow the healthcare industry to remain profitable.