A response to Rep. Ryan's health care proposals

Who is responsible for the following statement?:

"The plan ensures universal access to affordable health insurance by restructuring the tax code, allowing all Americans to secure an affordable health plan that best suits their needs,..."?

Was it Chuckie Schumer? Barack Obama? Harry Reid?

No, it was rising conservative star Paul D. Ryan (R) Congressman (WI) as taken from his op-ed piece "A GOP Road Map for America's Future" published today in the online Wall Street Journal . In fact, this is his first line under the heading "Health Care".

To be fair, here is the full quote:

"The plan ensures universal access to affordable health insurance by restructuring the tax code, allowing all Americans to secure an affordable health plan that best suits their needs, and shifting the control and ownership of health coverage away from the government and employers to individuals."

Here is Mr. Ryan's very next sentence:

"It provides a refundable tax credit-$2,300 for individuals and $5,700 for families-to purchase coverage (from another state if they so choose) and keep it with them if they move or change jobs."

Does anyone else see a divergence between the first statement and the second?

I may be alone in this sentiment but for the sake of debate, I'll pose a question: Is this not more big-government, nanny-state meddling by a career politician?

I realize even the question will draw fire. Nevertheless, it's a question worth asking, along with this one: Does the federal government have a legitimate constitutional role in the business of health care and if so, does that role extend to the redistribution of wealth via refundable tax credits?

As an alternative and an example of what might be done without funneling taxpayer funds through Washington DC, I propose the following way to introduce market forces into the health care system: end employer-sponsored health insurance. Then, to compensate employees for the lost benefit, encourage employers to make a cash "award" to employees as a fair and reasonable offset .

With this proposal, three things occur through a transition period:

1. Employers are freed of the nightmare of health insurance administration. That bonus alone is probably its own economic stimulus.

2. Employees will comparison shop health insurance plans and many if not most will find that high-deductable plans coupled with Health Savings Accounts (HSA) are THE sensible alternative to employer-sponsored plans.

3. Insurance companies will necessarily compete for the business of individual families and they will be seeking to underwrite a lot of policies in order to expand the risk base.

As usual, benevolent accommodations would have to be made for those with severe pre-existing conditions and for those in the lowest income brackets. That's a nanny-state reality of 2010. Still, the result is that market forces will tend to contain if not reduce the cost of health insurance. This is the way to get health insurance to the uninsured.

The "side benefit" is that those signing on to high-deductable plans will also be comparison shopping for run-of-the-mill health care goods and services. As a self-employed individual, I have an HSA coupled to a high deductable plan and I can assure you, shopping produces meaningful results, especially if you claim "no insurance coverage" for those expenses that will be out-of-pocket.

Perhaps the best benefit is that this simple program could be rolled out under any state and could even be reversed upon evidence of negative consequences. Every other plan I've seen consigns all 50 states to the potential of irreversible disaster.

Let's be honest: Legislators are addicted to meddling in the affairs of citizens and citizens are addicted to the taste of the government teat. Breaking the co-dependent cycle is going to require an intervention and as with all interventions, it will be painful. Still, if we are to retain liberty we must boldly assert self-reliance and not just in sentiment.

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