Monday, January 25, 2016

Senator Mark Green proposes market-driven alternative to Obamacare expansion

I detest Obamacare as much as the next conservative, but one thing we must admit is that the pre-Obamacare healthcare system was also seriously flawed.  Cost were rapidly increasing and too many people were uninsured. There really was not a "market" for health care.  When a third party pays the bill, no one cares what the cost of an item is.  It does not matter if the third party is an insurance company or the government, the effect is the same. The only exception is that you may care if the third party is your parents or your local church congregation. If you would be judged negatively for overindulging you may still care what something really cost, but when the party paying the bill is a distant impersonal entity, who cares? 

Assume we could join a food co-op and and assume that now we all spend about $400 a month on groceries, so we all put in $400 a month and go to the grocery store and buy what ever we want. I would eat more steak and shrimp and lobster. I really don't care if I buy Coke or Pepsi and I can switch between the two depending which is on sale. If someone else was paying the bill I would not even look at the price. Soon the cost of groceries would climb form $400 per month to $600 to $800 per month. Also, the merchant, who previously had an incentive to keep his groceries affordable, will realize he can constantly raise prices since no one really cares what something cost. That is much like were we are with health care.

Obamacare not only did nothing to address the problems with health care cost, but made the problems worst.  When Governor Haslam introduced his Insure Tennessee plan, I was opposed, but not adamantly opposed. I thought Insure Tennessee was better than the standard expansion of medicaid under Obamacare. I opposed it primarily because I think Obamacare is a terrible policy and I thought we should hold off on any expansion of Obamacare and focus on trying to defeat it, not acquiescence for something only slightly less offensive than the standard Obamacare expansion. I am glad  Insure Tennessee was defeated.

There is normally not much a State legislator can do to counter a nation policy other than refuse to acquiesce and to reject federal dollars. While I realize that Federal dollars come from the same pocket of the taxpayer as local or state dollars, there is still a compelling reason to get our share of federal money. If we don't, we still pay for it and someone else gets the money.

While it is difficult for a State legislature to do more than say "no" to a federal policy, State Senator Mark Green has proposed a couple of bills that do more.  He has proposed two bills that would incorporate changes to health care that incorporate market principles. Below is the report from his news letter explaining what he is proposing: 
Senator Mark Green
In the area of health care, there are two issues I'm working to address.
Unanimously passing Tennessee's Senate Commerce Committee last week, my bill to reform our state's Medicaid program - a federally-mandated program for which our state has a waiver - or TennCare.  

The Tennessean summed this legislation up in that it would "radically alter how health insurance is delivered to Tennessee's Medicaid (TennCare) recipients" and addresses the working poor that would have been covered by the expansion through the Affordable Care Act.

Simply, Senate Joint Resolution 88 allows patients in our state's health care program for the indigent and poor to participate in flexible savings accounts that reward healthy behavior and choices while incentivizing selective consumer choices and price-shopping.  In essence, the proposal makes the system patient-centric and not "3rd-party payer-centric."  This will create competition and reduce prices in an open-market environment.

In the TN Senate Commerce Committee, I requested that Commissioner of Insurance and Commerce, Julie McPeak, appear to provide an explanation for the double-digit increases in premiums by individual health-insurance plan holders.

From Commissioner McPeak's presentation it was clear that the consequences of Obamacare continue to cost hard-working Tennesseans. As healthy individuals left the healthcare exchange, prices covering the sicker patients have skyrocketed.  The point was obvious, prior to Obamacare, Tennessee had a competitive market that drove the price of insurance down.  In the wake of Obamacare, competition is gone and Tennesseans are paying the price.

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