Next big player in rethinking health care: government

We have spent much time exploring what is wrong with today’s health care system and what needs to be done by its participants (providers, insurers, employers and patients). This article will address the remaining very important system participants – elected and appointed government officials. More

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OP-ED / LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Next big player in rethinking health care: government

Posted 1/6/14

We have spent much time exploring what is wrong with today’s health care system and what needs to be done by its participants (providers, insurers, employers and patients). This article will address the remaining very important system participants – elected and appointed government officials.

To the officials: Your role is critical. To a significant degree you regulate health care and health insurance. You enact laws that make it easier or more difficult for health care participants to do business in a responsible fashion.

You have, up to now, enacted laws and regulations that have added untold millions of dollars to the costs of providers’ (particularly hospitals) and health insurers’ businesses. These take the forms of premium, property and other taxes (even on nonprofit insurers), mandated coverage, subsidies, Medicare and Medicaid shortfall coverage, inoculation program funding, specialized childhood coverage funding, prescription-drug program funding, testing in schools, ambulance coverage (one of many that used to be provided by your organization using tax revenue), and more.

Many of these costs used to be covered by the state and federal governments. These are nothing less than hidden taxes that have been shifted from the government to insurers and providers. If we removed all of the foregoing from health-insurance premiums, rates would decrease by as much as one-third. So officials, your role is critical.

Every civilized nation should make quality health care available to every man, woman and child lawfully in that country regardless of ability to pay. Health care is a fundamental human right, and yes, I believe it should be regulated. It’s too important not to be.

Moreover, health care is the largest single industry of the Rhode Island economy, and it deserves respectful and informed attention. The past Lifespan/CNE attempt at a merger is an example. Regardless of whether you were for or against it, the participants at least deserved a prompt and thoroughly thought-out decision. It got neither and it dragged on for years, bleeding both organizations unnecessarily.

Likewise, our health care system is begging for a statewide strategic health plan – something that can be relied on in future planning by health care participants and that the General Assembly can use when considering the hundreds of health care bills that come before it each spring.

While our legislators spend substantial time on bridge tolls, marijuana dispensing, naming the state’s insect, gambling spats and the traditional June/July rush of important bills through to enactment or defeat without time for appropriate consideration, health care in this state languishes from lack of focused and expert attention.

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