Unintended consequences and health care reform

Albuquerque Journal Business journalist Winthrop Quigley recently wrote about American health care. The theme of the article is basically that there are often unintended consequences when it comes to changing health care laws.

Quigley also relied on a GAO report that attacked health savings accounts for being targeted at the wealthy when this study was flawed and other studies have shown that health savings accounts are attractive for everyone, not just the rich.

I responded with a letter to the editor that appeared in the paper on Monday and is found below:

Winthrop Quigley is absolutely right that policy decisions – even ostensibly pro-market ones – made in Washington, DC, often have unintended consequences. Nowhere is this clearer than in the area of health care where policies are adopted on top of policies, often with contradictory results.

Unraveling this mess of policies will take political will and humility, two things that are in very short supply in Washington, but things will move in a better direction if certain principles are followed including:

• Not all wisdom comes from Washington. Let the 50 “laboratories of democracy” tackle the health care issue their own way;
• Spending on health care programs – including Medicare and Medicaid — should be managed at the state level. The block grant model worked in the 1990s with welfare reform, it could work again;
• Better decisions and greater efficiency will result from putting health care dollars back in the hands of patients and consumers, not governments and insurance companies.

The aforementioned principles have been ignored by Democrats and Republicans alike, leading to our current mess. President Obama’s health care law, like Bush’s massive Medicare prescription drug bill, centralized decision-making and has led (or will lead) to massive deficits and inefficient delivery of health care services.

We can and must do better in health care for our own health and for the fiscal health of the nation.