South Dakota lawmakers have introduced a bill with an individual mandate that all residents purchase a gun. Of course, this bill hasn’t a chance of passing, but rather was introduced to prove the point that the individual healthcare mandate is neither practical nor constitutional.
Interestingly, while the federal healthcare mandate has been deemed unconstitutional, certain portions of the South Dakota state sponsored gun mandate that don’t conflict with federal law may actually be legal, as it does not violate the commerce clause which enumerates limitations on federal, not state, powers. Of course, here in lies the solution to healthcare that needs to be resolved at the state, rather than the federal level.
During a recent Healthcare Finance Management Association Conference, there was no shortage of debate on the pros and, mainly, cons of the healthcare mandate. Some, such as former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala wholeheartedly contend that the individual mandate will withstand constitutional muster. Others, including many who provide medical services, suggest that enactment will drive up prices while diminishing the quality and availability of care.
As we are already seeing, premiums are rising as the result of this legislation. It only makes economic sense that if the majority are to subsidize the uninsured, costs will rise. According to insurance consultant Christopher Tidball, “I can attest firsthand to the costs borne by motorists as the result of those who drive without insurance, despite most states having individual auto insurance mandates. The burden in healthcare will be no different, as costs are passed onto existing policy holders to subsidize government programs and entitlements. Complicating matters, should the new law be fully enacted, will be the increasing costs associated with people who elect to pay a fine, be uninsured and then take advantage of the system only when the need arises.”
Perhaps the uglier side of the legislation is the role that it has played in millions of Americans being kicked to the curb. Business owners have been backed into a corner, having to decide between jobs and benefits and often deciding it is simply cheaper to do things overseas.
Throughout the entire debate, one thing seems certain irrespective of position on the bill; healthcare is in need of fixing. But the real question is how a bill by Congress fixes it when doing little to address much needed tort reform of the ability of individuals to purchase across state lines?
Complicating matters are the exemptions being granted, which now total 729, including waivers for some of the bill’s biggest sponsors such as the SEIU. Realistically, how effective can a bill be when it is nothing more than fodder for political favors?
What’s needed is reform that will drive down costs, stimulate job growth while avoiding the creation of a trillion dollar federal bureaucracy. To truly succeed, it is incumbent upon those in Washington to recognize that this type of vision and innovation can only come from those with an understanding of the private sector.
Certainly there are steps that can be taken to rein in costs, which will take the political courage to stand up to special interests, particularly public employee service unions and trial lawyers. There are also steps that can be taken to encourage competition amongst health insurers, which can be accomplished through interstate commerce and a limitation of coverage for frivolous or unnecessary procedures. Health providers have immeasurable potential to improve revenue cycle management, one of their greatest obstacles to success.
While there is little debate that America offers the greatest health care in the world, the challenges are to make that care both available and affordable. This can only come about by curtailing the pandering and political favors and, for a change, focusing on a process that will actually work for the people instead of the politicians.
Christopher Tidball is a freelance writer and the author of Kicked to the Curb: 20 Essential Rules For Coming Out On Top When Your Life Has Been Upside Down. He has been featured on dozens of media outlets including MSNBC, CBS Market Watch and Kiplinger’s. To learn more about how his innovative predictive modeling, data mining and link analysis products can find hospitals and health insurers millions of dollars in missed revenue, please visit www.christidball.com or e-mail [email protected].