By Bob Rice - 03/09/10 12:38 AM EST
Many pundits are now suggesting that congressional Democrats deemphasize healthcare reform and focus more on job creation. My response: Do both. True healthcare reform could be a massive and immediate job creator in the private sector. And this time, keep it simple.
As a retired owner of retail stores for 32 years, my suggestion for reform is to use a system that most Americans trust. Simply take Medicare, exactly as it stands, and gradually extend it downward to give every uninsured American citizen and legal resident the option of joining it within two years.
Many manufacturing companies in America work employees extra hours at overtime rates to avoid the burden of additional healthcare costs associated with the hiring of new employees. Many individuals, who have entrepreneurial, job-producing skills, remain at their jobs with employer-provided health benefits, rather than face the uncertainty and expense that health insurance presents to small-business owners.
As a former retailer, I do not recognize any significant “price point” competition between doctors or between hospitals. In the absence of such competition, widespread use of the exact same reimbursement schedule that Medicare uses, to limit how much doctors and hospitals can charge, is absolutely the only way to quickly and dramatically reduce overall healthcare costs.
“Medicare Extended” would drive down these costs by allowing the federal government to offer cheap insurance to millions of Americans while simultaneously reimbursing (paying) doctors and hospitals only one-third or one-half of what uninsured Americans typically pay.
With significantly lower healthcare costs (and insurance premiums), America will become more competitive internationally, in attracting job-creating domestic and foreign investment.
In addition, as “Medicare Extended” dramatically reduces the monthly cost of healthcare for millions of Americans families, the resultant increase in personal disposable family income will translate into extra sales, profits and employer hiring by businesses.
To gain the support of additional doctors “Medicare Extended” calls for, there should be massive tort reform in the area of medical malpractice suits.
Finally, to the extent “Medicare Extended” does not pay for itself, the reform plan mandates that the financial services sector pay a significant portion of the cost of healthcare reform through implementation of a small tax on each of the millions of financial services transactions taking place daily.