George W. Bush found the solution to America’s healthcare crisis seven years ago. Too bad nobody listened.
he Congressional Budget Office’s warning that the Affordable Care Act will cause employment to fall by the equivalent of 2.5 million full-time workers is just the latest of Obamacare’s negative surprises. Unfortunately, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s statement that “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it” is proving to be depressingly accurate.
The law’s defenders legitimately argue that it is not sufficient merely to criticize the Affordable Care Act; responsible action requires proposing an alternative. Fortunately, Republicans have a good one, and it’s been hiding in plain sight for the past seven years. The plan was first described in President George W. Bush’s 2007 State of the Union Address, but it remains timely. This plan would remedy most of the major problems that exist in America’s health care system and cause less destruction with fewer adverse consequences than Obamacare.
There are two main problems associated with health care in the United States today. First, it is expensive. Health economists, among them Daniel Kessler at Stanford, have shown convincingly that the United States spends a larger share of its gross domestic product on health care than other countries (for example, about one-and-a-half times what Switzerland spends per capita) because of inappropriate incentives to use care efficiently. Patients who have insurance or rely on state funds to cover their expenses bear little of the cost of any treatment received, which causes them to use health resources as if they were almost free. This means that health care is overused and the scarce resources do not always go to those who need them most. Part of this is a result of a Tax Code that subsidizes expensive plans, which have low co-payments and overly extensive coverage. The second problem is the large number of uninsured Americans who do not have reasonable access to health care and who obtain the health care that they do receive in inefficient ways, such as using emergency rooms for minor ailments.
So what would the ideal alternative to Obamacare look like?