Health care has consistently ranked near the top of American voters’ list of concerns, and is likely to remain there. In fact, in the latest Americans for Prosperity health care survey conducted June 22 by Public Opinion Strategies, health care is in the top three, just behind inflation and jobs.
The vast majority of voters reject a government takeover of health care — they want to keep what works and fix what doesn’t. But you’d never know it by listening to candidates on the campaign trail this year. As the midterm elections approach, the nation’s two major parties are offering voters a stark choice between Democrats’ failed health care ideas and Republicans’ seeming reluctance to discuss their ideas.
That’s unfortunate, because while 70 percent of Americans are satisfied with their current health insurance arrangements, the AFP survey shows that 70 percent are also concerned about some significant problems. Voters are frustrated by high and rising health care costs, its confusing complexity and their rapidly diminishing access to trusted doctors and facilities. And while they may not understand exactly how the current system favors special interests and is dominated by insurance companies and government bureaucracies, they clearly see the negative effects and want change.
Instead of practical solutions to these problems, what do both sides offer? Democrats are doubling down on existing government programs like ObamaCare and Medicaid and calling for intrusive, innovation-stifling government price controls—failed policies that are likely to make things worse instead of better.
Many Republicans have been remarkably silent on the issue.
Both sides are unrelated. This creates freedom at the center of the debate for practical, open-minded candidates who take voters’ concerns seriously and propose sensible policies to address them.
More than 80 think tanks and research organizations, including ours, have tried to do just that—find a reasonable middle ground on health care reform that can break down existing partisan gridlock. We studied the issues and came together around a series of detailed recommendations that we call the Health Care Choice Agenda.
The Goodman Institute and the Heritage Foundation distilled these ideas into some easy-to-understand practical reforms. At the same time, AFP activists across the country are building support for many of these reforms under the banner of giving Americans the “Personal Option.”
Here are ten of the most important recommendations:
1. Allow families to have access to insurance that meets their medical and financial needs, instead of imposing exorbitant deductibles and sky-high premiums.
2. Let families have access to the best doctors and the best hospitals, instead of narrow networks that deny them the care they need.
3. Allow employees to have access to personal and portable health insurance that travels with them from job to job and in and out of the job market.
4. Make virtual medicine a permanent option so patients can receive more care in their own homes.
5. Allow families to access low-cost, 24/7, essential care without insurance, including phone, email and virtual visits – nights and weekends.
6. To be treated more like valued customers, let patients who want to do so manage more of their own health care money.
7. Let the elderly have the same options as the young, including access to health savings accounts.
8. Let families know the exact cost of care in advance so they can plan accordingly and save money by making smarter choices.
9. Let patients with chronic conditions have access to centers of excellence that specialize in their conditions.
10. Allow Medicaid enrollees access to the same private insurance that other families have.
Support for this program is growing among experts, providers and politicians. In fact, it’s off the charts. In the AFP poll, where it is described as a “personal option,” it leads the Democrats’ “public option” plan by a solid 8 points (54 percent to 46 percent) and beats Medicare for all by a staggering 24 points (62 percent to 28 percent) — landslide.
Politically, it gives free-market advocates something we’ve never had: a comprehensive health care program that resonates with voters.
Importantly, this will not disrupt your existing healthcare arrangements or weaken existing government safety nets or insurance protections. Instead, it will give you more control over your own care and empower doctors with new and better ways to meet your needs.
The healthcare experience will no longer be such an ordeal. It would be more like shopping online or at your favorite grocery store. You will enjoy a wide selection, clearly marked prices and much less problems and surprises.
This agenda is achievable. It should be hailed as bipartisan.
Certainly, it offers voters a more exciting vision than the current binary choice between failed ideas and no ideas.
John C. Goodman is president and CEO of the Goodman Institute. Dean Clancy is a senior fellow for health policy at Americans for Prosperity.