American Health Care System Needs More Freedom, Less Government

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Since the end of World War II, a debate has ensued in the United States over the best way to increase access to high-quality, affordable health care.

On one side of the debate are those who favor more government intervention within the health care sector.

On the other side lie those who believe more freedom (and less government) is the best way to achieve better health care for all Americans.

For decades, the left has put forth a plethora of plans to increase the role of government in the nation’s health care system. Some of these plans, such as Obamacare, have been implemented. Others, such as Medicare for All, have not (yet).

However, there has been a void of plans presented by those on the right that would address the many problems of America’s broken health care system.

Fortunately, The Heartland Institute, a think tank whose mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems, has put a plan on the table that addresses several of the structural problems that have plagued the U.S. health care system for decades.

In short, the American Health Care Plan (AHCP) “would give nearly all Americans access to affordable and high quality health care without substantially increasing government spending.”

The American Health Care Plan consists of seven chief components, summarized below.

First, “The Obamacare exchanges should be terminated, and many of the most burdensome Obamacare regulations should be repealed.”

Second, “Association health plans and health savings accounts (HSAs) should be expanded dramatically.”

Third, “Direct primary care agreements should be legalized everywhere, and consumers should be incentivized to enroll in these plans rather than use their health insurance for primary care services.”

Fourth, “The current employer-sponsored health insurance model should be substantially reformed so that it empowers workers to make their own health insurance choices, encourages wise financial decision-making, and makes health insurance portable so that it is much less likely an employee would lose his or her health insurance when employment ends—a major contributor to America’s past pre-existing conditions problem. All of this can be achieved by transitioning to an employer-funded health savings account model, rather than continue with the current employer-provided health insurance system.”

Fifth, “Medicaid should be transformed into a health savings account-based model, and policies should be enacted that require able-bodied, non-pregnant people enrolled in Medicaid to work, volunteer, or participate in an educational program. Medicaid should be reformed so that it is easier for people to work their way out of Medicaid and other welfare programs, helping to end the cycle of poverty so many American families remain trapped in.”

Sixth, “Every able-bodied American who cannot afford health insurance should be given access to a Health Ownership Account that would allow him or her to receive the aid needed to purchase an insurance plan, but only if he or she fulfills work requirements and uses those funds to purchase a low-cost health insurance plan. (Those who suffer from a disability or are pregnant would not be subject to work requirements.)”

And seventh, “Most, and perhaps all, of the long-term costs of this plan could be paid for using existing commitments for health care funding, as well as by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse.”

The American Health Care Plan’s goal is simple: “Provide all Americans with the money they need to purchase health insurance.”

And the way to accomplish this goal, according to the plan, is also simple: “Introduce free-market forces into the U.S. health care system, which would improve overall quality, lower costs for everyone, and encourage health care savings.”

Rather than doubling down on more government interference in the already overregulated health care system, perhaps it is time to take the opposite approach.

The American Health Care Plan offers a pathway to more health care freedom, which would be a boon to all Americans.

Chris Talgo ([email protected]) is senior editor at The Heartland Institute.