Patient-centered healthcare — at the crossroads

As a physician, I have seen first hand how our healthcare system has left a growing divide between America’s patients and quality coverage. With 47 million people episodically uninsured last year and patients increasingly being left without choices, it is essential that we fundamentally reform healthcare financing and delivery. The goal should be a system that is innovative, responsive, affordable, accessible, accountable, and most importantly, patient-centered.

To bring about this positive change, we must understand the basic flaws of the current structure. Washington health care “solutions” have led to an established third-party system where patients are left at the mercy of employers or the government for health insurance coverage. Rather than choosing a plan that is tailored for specific needs, this system leaves people beholden to coverage chosen by an outside party.
Medical decisions are often the most important and personal decisions we make. They should be made by the patients and doctors, not employers or the government. It is unhealthy and immoral to allow outside parties to dictate personal healthcare decisions.

Having little influence over their health insurance, patients are generally uninformed about how their medical care is delivered. Insurers have no incentive to be responsive to consumer needs. Since patients do not truly own their coverage, they are left helpless in a hazardous maze of bureaucracy and administrative red tape.

The lack of a legitimate personal health insurance market provides zero flexibility or portability. This inflexible healthcare financing, management and delivery structure is the legacy of a bygone era — a time when most people remained in one job for a lifetime. Today our economy is much more fluid and our workforce is much more mobile; we need a healthcare system consistent with these new dynamics.

Cost is often the most prohibitive barrier to the personal ownership of health insurance. Americans without employer-provided health insurance who do not qualify for government assistance, face enormous costs and an unresponsive health insurance market. Years of increasing price controls, excessive regulation, and counter-productive healthcare tax policy have left the purchase of personal coverage unattainable for too many Americans.

The serious flaws in our system are many, but they provide us with an extraordinary opportunity to solve our nation’s healthcare challenges through principled and innovative ideas. Since coming to Congress, I have used my experience as a physician to craft legislation that would bring positive solutions to our nation’s health care crisis. H.R. 2626, the Comprehensive HealthCARE (Coverage and Reform Enhancement) Act, offers a crucial transformation to put patients first and bring us closer to the goal of insurance coverage for all.

The cornerstone of H.R. 2626 is a transition to a defined contribution system where the selection and promotion of personal insurance for all Americans becomes attainable. Under this structure, patients would truly own their health plan, empowering them with choices and portability.

This defined contribution system is essential in order to create a personally responsive insurance market and restore accountability to the insurance industry. There is no greater leverage for patients than personal ownership. When patients have the power to influence and select a health plan, the market will be responsive to their specific needs, tailoring benefits and reducing costs.

To reduce the spiraling growth of coverage costs, the Comprehensive HealthCare Act uses market principles to create an interstate market for health insurance. This additional infusion of competition adds choice and lowers cost by allowing patients to purchase insurance products across state lines that best meet their needs.

With a defined contribution system, it becomes important that all Americans have access to personal health care coverage. H.R. 2626 provides individuals and families with advance-allowed, refundable tax credits and tax deductions to purchase health insurance. This meaningful tax reform is essential to provide equality in the tax structure for health insurance purchase.

Changing the way people receive healthcare in a positive, meaningful way will require solutions that put patients first. Fundamental reform throughout our healthcare system will be required if we are going to achieve a 21st century system that is innovative, responsive, affordable, accessible, accountable, of the highest quality and, above all, patient-centered. H.R. 2626 is just the right prescription.

Price is a member of the House Education and Labor Committee. He is an M.D. who practiced orthopaedic surgery for over 20 years.


Special section: Healthcare


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