Monday, February 1, 2010

To reduce health care costs, remove government barriers and empower everyday people

Congress is just a few simple steps away from restoring competition and affordability to the private American health care industry, which represents one sixth of the U.S. economy, former Mayor Frank Guinta told a crowd of folks in Conway who attended a Town Hall meeting at the Conway Café.

"What frustrates me is that there are basic solutions that are available that can affect costs and can deter the increases we've seen,” said Guinta, who is running for New Hampshire’s First District U.S. House seat. “It comes down to a little bit of personal responsibility and a little less government intrusion."

Guinta said legislation could be written and passed immediately that wouldn’t necessarily be opposed by the majority party in Washington. While touring the district, health care executives have told him that there is plenty of money in the system, it just isn’t being used wisely, he said.

Tort reform would solve many health-care-cost issues quickly. When patients visit their doctor or an emergency room for a problem, doctors now order thousands of dollars of medical tests to cover themselves from liability. A cap on liability would allow doctors to give patients advice and let their patients take responsibility for whether they follow it.

"Doctors are practicing defensive medicine because they do not want to be sued if they don't provide those battery of tests,” Guinta said. “There is significant cost that is wasted because of defensive medicine practices."

Another thing Washington needs to do is open health insurance markets across state lines.

"The notion that you cannot purchase insurance outside New Hampshire just makes no rational sense,” Guinta said. "There's a corner on the market right now. And it's a border from state to state to state to state. That issue alone would address costs."

Allowing small businesses to pool their employees together to generate a larger risk pool would also decrease costs, he said. Employers with more than 100 employees get an automatic 20 percent discount on rates. If smaller businesses joined together for health care pools to exceed the 100-employee benchmark, they would also receive the discounts.

Finally, folks should be able to carry their insurance with them wherever they work, Guinta said. They should also be able to get a plan that allows them to pay for full deductions. The latter idea would allow people to see how much they’re actually paying for health care, so they might actually shop around for the lowest price for their desired quality.

“When people know what the cost is, they think differently,” Guinta said. “When they feel they're paying, they think differently."