Healthcare Power to the People


It seems everyone wants to change ObamaCare except Obama. Even Democratic candidates for the presidency don’t like it. Hillary Clinton wants to limit how much people must spend on their healthcare (more government regulations) and Bernie Sanders wants to convert it to a single-payer system (total government control).

Republicans agree it needs to be replaced with something better. But what would that look like? Several candidates have put forth their ideas including Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, and Jeb Bush. What’s needed is an approach the people can get behind.

Here’s a novel idea – let’s give more power to the people to make their own healthcare decisions. That’s the message of Lanhee J. Chen and James C. Capretta in an Op-ed for The Wall Street Journal. Chen is a research fellow at The Hoover Institution and Capretta is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a visiting fellow at The American Enterprise Institute.

ObamaCare is the brainchild of secular progressives who believe they’re the only ones smart enough to make your healthcare decisions. Chen and Capretta believe it’s time to give people the right to choose their own doctor, hospital, and insurance plan.

Congress understands the frustration of the American people and recently passed legislation to repeal ObamaCare. But President Obama vetoed the bill, as expected. Just because the majority of the American people have always rejected this healthcare legislation is no reason for him to conclude it was a mistake. He’s going to defend it to the last day of his presidency.

Chen and Capretta correctly state that repealing ObamaCare is not enough. They say, “The country has been drifting toward full federal control of health care for decades. What’s needed is a credible plan to reorient federal policy across the board toward markets and the preferences of consumers and patients, and away from one-size-fits-all bureaucratic micromanagement.”

A Better Way

Here is their plan:

  • Retaining employer coverage – For about 155 million Americans who get their healthcare insurance through their employer, the status quo is working. Any new plan should leave these people alone. They would only change the current system for these people by placing a new upper limit on the tax preference for employer-paid premiums, set so that only the most expensive 25% of plans would exceed it (and be subject to a new tax). This is meant to discourage employers from spending their employee benefits on healthcare instead of wages (which are subject to income tax).
  • Tax credits – To help those individuals without employer coverage, these people would get an age-adjusted tax credit to help purchase their healthcare insurance. Unlike ObamaCare, there would be no strings attached (no federal mandates about specific coverage) so people could choose a plan that meets their needs. Together with employer coverage, these tax credits would ensure that all have access to secure insurance.
  • Continuous coverage protection – To be certain everyone has coverage of pre-existing conditions but not allow people to “game the system” by purchasing insurance only after they get sick, this plan would incentivize people to stay insured. As long as they remain continuously insured, they cannot be charged higher premiums, have their benefits restricted, or be denied enrollment due to their health status. This will solve the problems of getting coverage that existed before ObamaCare while keeping the cost of that coverage reasonable.
  • Medicaid reform – They would reform the system into two parts; one for able-bodied adults and their children, the other for the disabled and the elderly. The states would be given fixed, per-person payments based on historical spending patterns. States could then manage these funds without federal interference. Some of the able-bodied adults and their children could combine the state money with the federal tax credits and purchase private insurance as another option.
  • Medicare reform – New retirees would get a fixed level of assistance – derived from bids submitted by competing insurance carriers and the calculated cost of staying in traditional Medicare. Then these seniors would use this money to purchase a health plan of their own choosing. They could stay in traditional Medicare or choose a private plan if they prefer. The choice would be theirs.
  • Expanded Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) – Currently these plans are the fastest growing segment of the healthcare insurance market because they give people the freedom to make choices about their healthcare with high-deductible plans. In the new plan all Americans could open HSA accounts and make annual (tax-deferred) contributions, even when they are enrolled in plans with low deductibles.


Chen and Capretta say their plan has already been evaluated by the nonpartisan Center for Health and Economy, which confirmed it would cover as many people as ObamaCare but without the same massive expense and high taxes. This would greatly improve our alarming national debt, now over $19 Trillion.

More importantly it would restore freedom to the American people – freedom to choose which insurance to purchase to meet their health care needs, without losing their doctor, their hospital, or violating their religious freedom. Now that’s power to the people!

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