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Commentary

A Serious Senate Agenda for "Health Week"
Nina Owcharenko, Robert E. Moffit, Ph.D., Heritage Foundation, 4-30-06

Moffit and Owcharenko lay out a series of principles and policies that readers can use to gauge the seriousness of health care reforms in Congress. Moffit and Owcharenko argue that there are

...key tests that will determine whether or not the Senate’s legislative initiatives are serious changes in health policy or simple, and largely inconsequential, tweaks to the status quo.

  • Personal control over health care dollars. The proposed legislation should call for an increase in the control that individuals and families have over the flow of health care dollars in the system. It should not leave the control of dollars in the hands of employers, managed care networks, or government officials.
  • Expanded consumer choice and competition. The proposed legislation should call for an expansion in consumer choice of health plans or benefits. The legislation should also encourage direct competition among health plans and providers for the dollars of individuals and families.
  • A net reduction in health care regulation. The proposed legislation should call for a net reduction in the already excessive regulation of the health care system. Legislation should not continue to expand federal regulation over health insurance markets or undermine the capacity of states to embark on innovative policy changes...

Several policy initiatives meet these key tests. The creation of an individual tax credit program would eliminate the current inequities in the federal tax code and enable individuals to buy and own their own health care policies. Giving individuals and families the right to purchase a health plan of their choice, even if that plan is domiciled in another state, would expand consumer choice. Health savings and flexible spending accounts could be improved by making their use more flexible and consumer friendly. Defined contributions from employers to their employees’ health plans should be promoted to enable individuals and families to choose the health benefit packages that best meet their personal needs. The promotion of state level experimentation in health care reform would give state officials greater flexibility and access to federal resources in expanding and improving coverage.



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