Health Care Initiative

March 4, 1999

Congress needs to reform health care in this session. But will real reform take place? The last two sessions of Congress passed a requirement for a medical ID number and passed a law that invalidated state privacy protections for patients' records. Not exactly a great start on health care reform.

Unfortunately this leadership vacuum has led to the rise of health maintenance organizations, or HMOs. They have been able to virtually take over the private health care market by convincing employers that they could save money by forcing their employees into HMOs. Attempts by Congress to pass a patients' bill of rights failed because Democrats demanded that patients have the right to sue HMOs for damages when they deny care.

If Congress is to overcome this stalemate in health care revision, a new model must be put forward. The model has to be medical savings accounts. Although a pilot program was initiated through the Kennedy-Kassebaum bill, it was nearly doomed to failure for lack of funding and support. What we need is a system of medical savings accounts that are allowed to compete in a free market.

The fundamental problem with health care is a decision made by Congress in the federal tax law which granted tax deductibility only to health insurance plans provided by employers. This effectively discriminates against part-time workers, workers at small firms without company plans, and the self-employed. There is also little incentive to hold down costs.

The solution is for Congress to sever the irrational link between employment and health care. Your employer doesn't own your car insurance or your house insurance. It shouldn't own your health insurance either. Individual workers should be free to control their own health care through medical savings accounts or other insurance instruments. This is the kind of health care reform Congress needs to pass this session.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.