August 20, 2009
Health Care Reform Buzz
The President and the United States Congress are pushing an agenda to rework the nation’s health care system with sweeping legislation. With health care making up about one-eighth of our nation’s economy, people have reason to raise questions and get answers before entrusting the federal government with so much power and control.
In Wisconsin, the State Legislature has not been immune from the debate on health care reform. Last session, Senate Democrats attempted to insert in the state’s budget bill, with just hours notice, a proposal that would have resulted in a government takeover of health care in Wisconsin.
Now, as public support for nationalized health care wanes, state Democratic leaders are suggesting they will bring back their plan for Wisconsin. Dubbed “Healthy Wisconsin,” the Democratic plan would impose a new double-digit payroll tax on job providers and working families to participate in a state managed health care system. I believe Healthy Wisconsin would be a taxpayer disaster that would limit choice and send jobs fleeing out of Wisconsin.
Democratic Senator Jon Erpenbach, the lead sponsor of “Healthy Wisconsin,” stated recently that his bill will be ready to go if U.S. Congress fails and challenged those that disagreed to come up with alternatives. His presumption that something should be done is correct; but “reform” should not entail MORE government involvement at all steps.
We need to work together on addressing the most pressing issue with health care €“ affordability. Here are some doable reforms that can address escalating costs:
- Tort Reform. Preserve and enact strong medical malpractice limits to avoid increased health care costs resulting from lawsuits.
- Promote health care cooperatives. Cooperatives are run and managed by their members, not government. Such cooperatives can empower consumers with greater purchasing power that can lead to greater choice and lower premiums.
- Extend tax credits for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Wisconsin is the only state to not allow deductions for purchasing HSAs. HSAs offer insurance for serious injury or illness while allowing consumers choices and the ability to directly benefit from savings.
- Expand transparency. The “Patients Right to Know Act” introduced last year would ensure patients get cost estimates for non-emergency care over $500. To control costs, prices must be readily available.
- Provide reinsurance to protect small business and families dealing with catastrophic care. By having state government assume the costs and risks of serious injury or illness, insurers face predictable costs. Predicable costs enable lower premiums for employers and would avert bankruptcies driven by medical catastrophes.
Visit my website, www.harsdorfsenate.com, to learn more about state issues, offer your input, and weigh in on legislative matters through my online survey.