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USA Today


Give States More Freedom

May 12, 2011

By Avik Roy

There is one reason above all that health insurance is so expensive in America, leading many to go without coverage: because it’s easy to waste other people’s money. Most of us don’t buy health insurance for ourselves. Instead, it’s bought for us by others — our employers or the government.

As a result, patients and politicians demand the costliest treatments and tests, regardless of need, because we think someone else is paying the bill. But we’re the ones who end up paying, in unaffordable premiums and higher taxes. ObamaCare, and RomneyCare before it, have made these problems even worse.

Results of the plan then-Gov. Mitt Romney created in Massachusetts in 2006 show us where we’re headed. Health insurance there is the nation’s most expensive. Bay Staters have to wait twice as long to see certain doctors than do residents of other states. And state health spending is spiraling out of control.

Romney’s new proposal moves us in the right direction. It strengthens health-savings accounts, so individuals can control their own health dollars. It enacts malpractice reform, so doctors don’t waste money protecting themselves from unnecessary lawsuits. It improves the tax code so that employees can buy insurance for themselves, rather than through their employers. This way, they can shop for what best fits their needs, and keep their insurance when they change or lose jobs.

More important, Romney promises to grant waivers from Medicaid and ObamaCare to every state. This would help states cover more people by giving states the freedom to provide more tailored, cost-efficient coverage to the people who need it, without the added expense of Byzantine federal regulations.

Rhode Island, under such a waiver, is saving billions on Medicaid, while maintaining its safety net for the state’s poor. President Obama claims he supports giving states more flexibility, but Obama’s actual proposal came with so many strings attached that most governors flatly rejected it.

Individual choice, not government control, will ensure that everyone has access to high-quality health care. Romney’s new proposal would do much to get us there. Unfortunately, his previous stab at reform is a big reason why we’re not there now.

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