Following last week’s Supreme Court arguments, supporters of the President’s health care law are once again criticizing opponents of the law for failing to offer their own alternative. They are wrong.
The Heritage Foundation, for example, has outlined a detailed and comprehensive approach to reforming health care in Saving the American Dream. There are four core elements of this conservative alternative.
1. Repealing Obamacare
Patient-centered, market-based health care is incompatible with the fundamental construct of Obamacare. Obamacare is based on turning more power over health care dollars and decisions to Washington. In sharp contrast, the Heritage plan is based on turning more power over health care dollars and decisions to individuals and families.
2. Reforming Health Care Entitlements
Medicare and Medicaid are in need of reform. Obamacare cuts roughly $500 billion out of Medicare—but not to extend Medicare’s solvency. Instead, savings are used to pay for other health care spending under the law. On Medicaid, Obamacare offers no reform and instead dumps over 16 million new people onto an already broken government program.
In sharp contrast, the Heritage plan would transform Medicare and Medicaid into premium-support systems where seniors and low-income families can choose the health plans that best suit their personal needs. It also restores Medicaid as a true safety net to care for those with disabilities.
3. Restructuring the Tax Treatment of Health Insurance
The tax code discriminates against those who want to buy and own their health insurance, and it provides unlimited tax breaks to those who get their health insurance through their place of work. Obamacare ignores this distortion and simply adds more complexity on top of this flawed structure.
Under the Heritage plan, taxpaying Americans would get a federal tax credit to help them buy health insurance for themselves and their families. Like life, home, and car insurance, individuals would own their health insurance policies and would no longer be at risk of losing their health coverage just because they change or lose a job. Moreover, if they don’t like their health insurers, they can fire them.
4. Advancing Practical Insurance Market Reforms
The current insurance market is a patchwork system where some people slip through the cracks. The insurance changes under Obamacare, however, create a new set of problems by imposing a heavy regulatory regime that turns private health insurance into a public utility.
The Heritage plan structures its insurance market reforms on a consumer-driven model, not a government-controlled model. Changes are made to complement and enhance a real consumer-based marketplace for health insurance, where insurers and providers are compelled to compete based on quality and price.
Conservatives looking for an alternative should start with these principles when formulating their proposals. For more detailed information on how to fix the debt, cut spending, and restore prosperity, read Saving the American Dream.