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Kevin D. Korenthal: Health care reform options available

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Posted: September 5, 2009 5:08 p.m.
Updated: September 6, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
The problem that President Obama and Democrats have is very few people believe that government-run health insurance will solve any of the problems that plague the delivery of medical services in America.

It is pretty much an unspoken truth that the so-called "public option" is nothing more than a Big Government plan to grab another one-sixth of the economy.

So what can Congress do to make health care more affordable in America?

Health savings accounts
The number one option that small, medium and even large businesses have employed for years is employee health savings accounts.

While employers contribute to these accounts, it is really the employee's own money that fuels the growth of the size of the accounts.

The employer and employee contribute to the account before taxes, are not taxed when the money is spent, and the money can only be used to pay deductibles and a few other health services not covered by high deductible health plans.

It is the perfect way keep people invested in their own health care without requiring them to shoulder costs on the fly.

Local clinics for the poor
It is an absolute shame that the poor in America use the emergency room for all of their health care needs.

Not only is the ER the most expensive way to deliver health services, but it is also the method least capable of affecting a patient's overall health standards.

Small government- and health-insurance company-subsidized clinics located in poor communities would not only be able to deliver all emergency health services that do not require hospitalization, but could also be clearance houses for education and tools for healthy living.

Nongovernmental agencies have been proving the value of local clinics in other countries for decades. But as a matter of politics, the idea has not caught on here in the U.S.

Tort reform
It is worth noting that the "public option" does offer one benefit to the American people.

If the government is delivering your health services, you have no right to sue the plan if the quality of health care is poor.

Rather than going to that extreme, limits should be placed on the awards that judges and juries can deliver in the case of successful litigation.

Changes to what types of incidents that would qualify for litigation would also be advisable.

It is a shame that OBGYNs can be sued for millions of dollars simply because complications during child birth led to issues with the baby's health.

Limiting the scope of issues that could be litigated would go a very long way to bringing down the cost of doctor liability insurance.
Liability insurance is one of the leading reasons that the delivery of health care in America continues to rise.

Create more competition
One of the siren calls of the need for the public option is that insurance companies are only in it for profit.

But the truth is that because of onerous government regulations, health insurance companies are protected from any meaningful competition.

Health-insurance costs in states where competition is robust are much less than in states where regulations have limited competition.

If consumers could buy insurance from any company in any state, as opposed to being limited to companies in their own state, competition would be energized and costs would ultimately go down.

Insurance portability
One of the historical errors on the part of the health insurance industry is that policies are tied to employment.

Whereas employers should definitely be involved in subsidizing health insurance costs, there is no reason why employers should be hosting health insurance plans.

Like health-savings accounts, health-insurance policies would be tied to the individual rather than the employer.

In this manner, consumers would retain their insurance even if they change employers.

This is, after all, how we purchase our auto and homeowners' insurance and it works pretty well.

The bottom line is that there are many options for health care reform. A phony health insurance replacement program is not a solution.

If the president and Congress are serious about reform, they must drop the talk about a plan centered on a public option and begin dealing with the Republicans on real reform options.

Kevin D. Korenthal is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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