Sunday, March 1, 2015

Health Care Repair

When I was a young person buying health insurance on my own, the price was very expensive, as it is for many people. Given the cost, I chose a plan with a very high deductible. On one occasion, a very bad and lingering headache compelled me to seek medical treatment. To save money, I assumed it would be best to go straight to a specialist due to the intensity of the pain.

The Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor tried to diagnose my condition. She took an X-ray and said, “I can't determine your problem, so I need to do a CAT scan.” I responded by saying that I understood the difficulty with medical liability and the need to be thorough, but do you really need the test? She responded: "Why are you telling me this?" I said, "Because I'm paying for these tests!" She then paused and suggested we call both places in town, compare prices, and ask for a discount given that we didn’t need the intensity of a standard CAT scan.

Partnering with my doctor to better manage my resources, we found a place to provide the tests for much less. Perhaps more importantly, by asking a simple question, community resources were better allocated with no waste. This model, although not new, is the future of medicine—families in partnership with their doctors, asking the proper questions to get the right treatment while saving money.

Our current health care law has helped some but hurt many others. Costs are skyrocketing and one new government subsidized insurer has collapsed. With seemingly no way out of the problem, we need health care repair: a new framework for the right type of health care reform that will reduce costs, improve outcomes, and protect vulnerable persons.

Building on these principles I introduced a suite of health care bills that strengthens the opportunity for all Americans to acquire catastrophic insurance and health savings accounts. The Health Savings Account Act and Care for All Act provide better vehicles for the next generation to solve healthcare difficulties. The combination of a tax-advantaged savings account with access to guaranteed quality insurance is the right way forward for many Americans. This will make us better stewards of ordinary medical costs while protecting us if something significant goes wrong.

Another part of this new approach has to be price transparency. No one goes into a grocery store and asks for 20 bottles, 10 pounds, and a few sacks of whatever they stock. People look at prices first. The medical system has to adjust to this reality—and the government should incentivize that adjustment.

We should not return to the days when some Americans were excluded from buying quality affordable insurance. But our current model is flawed, creating anxiety and economic damage. A new architecture of health care repair is needed that combines the incentive to watch first dollar costs, with renewed vibrancy in the insurance market place. We can restore excellence in health care--and give peace of mind to you and your doctor.

About the Author:

JEFF FORTENBERRY has served as the U.S. Representative for Nebraska's 1st congressional district since 2005. He is the Chairperson for the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry. Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights and has a seat on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a member of the following Caucus groups: Civil War Battlefield Caucus - Congressional Biofuels Caucus - Congressional Farmer Cooperative Caucus - House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus - International Conservation Caucus - Sportsmen's Caucus.

Congressman Fortenberry has become the most knowledgeable representative on Capitol Hill for nuclear security issues.

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