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Leading policy-makers and scholars explain how market forces, deregulation, and consumer choice can work to improve health care for all Americans.

Commentary

Florida Empowers Health-Care Consumers
David Merritt, Newt Gingrich, Tallahassee Democrat, 3-16-06

In this oped, Gingrich and Merritt laud health-care reforms in the state of Florida. They especially praise Governor Bush and the Florida Legislature for improving patient access to health information. Gingrich and Merritt see this as a crucial step towards a more consumer-centered and efficient health care model.

Florida's vision is to provide in health-care delivery the same level of efficiency, quality, accuracy and choice that we have come to expect every day in the rest of the American marketplace. As a key step to achieving this vision, Florida is providing its citizens with price and quality information about medical services, which they can use to make critical and potentially life-saving decisions for themselves and their families.

Americans are accustomed to leading their lives empowered with the responsibility and knowledge to determine what is best for them. Outside of health care, we live in the world of Expedia, Travelocity, CraigsList and Consumer Reports. Within minutes, any citizen can find price, cost and performance data on an infinite number of products and services. This transparent system puts the consumer squarely at the center of the market. As a result, there emerges a 21st-century pattern of more choices of greater quality at lower cost.
Yet, this normal pattern is absent in health care. Individuals are at the mercy of a health-care system that has not kept pace with the technological advancement, transparency and modernization that nearly every other industry has embraced. The consequences are tragic: Medical errors continue to kill thousands; costs continue to rise faster than inflation; the number of uninsured continues to climb and consumers still remain at the edges of the system.

Merritt and Gingrich are not, however, pessimists. Quite the opposite, in fact. They think that the steps taken in Florida provide glimpse of a 21st-century intelligent health system and that “it is time for the rest of the nation to follow” Florida’s example.



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