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Tuesday, Oct 21, 2014
Commentary

PATIENT Health Care Act: More choices, not mandates


Published:

Since Obamacare became law in 2010, health insurance costs for Americans have increased by an average of $2,393 per person, while choice in doctors, services and prescription drug coverage remains largely unchanged. American health care delivery is moving closer to a single-payer, one-size-fits-all system.

Heavy-handed government regulation has chained health care delivery in America. It dictates to consumers what health services they need or don't need, and to providers what services they will or will not be paid for, fostering a system that disconnects quality from cost-efficiency to the detriment of patients.

Free-market principles work in health care delivery when quality and availability of services can be directly influenced by consumer demand; the consumers' own dollars incentivize them to seek the highest quality care for the best price. Realizing the important role served by health insurance, patients must have the ability to obtain only the insurance coverage most appropriate to their health and financial needs, eliminating risk-coverage they do not need.

Free markets foster choice.

This is an achievable goal, and we get there by empowering patients to make informed health decisions based on quality, encouraging the use of high-deductible health plans and health savings accounts, giving Medicare beneficiaries more options, allowing for the sale of health insurance across state lines irrespective of job status, and providing coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

High-deductible health plans have existed for years. You pay ultra-low premiums, and insurance only kicks in once you reach a higher dollar amount than traditional plans (currently about $3,200). These plans work best for people who are generally healthy and only need health insurance for extreme circumstances. They are also typically more affordable than traditional plans.

Most people who have a high-deductible health plan also have a health savings account (HSA), and people who save money consistently with these accounts should be rewarded.

My bill, the Providing Accountability & Transparency to Incentivize Economically Necessary Transitions (PATIENT) Health Care Act, would expand the options offered for HSAs to encourage people to plan for future needs.

My plan increases the amount of pre-tax dollars you can hold in a HSA to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for families. This is tax-free money that you can use to pay your premiums, drug costs, and other medical expenses - it is your choice.

Obamacare prohibits you from using a HSA for health insurance premiums or over-the-counter medications. The PATIENT Health Care Act removes that prohibition.

Under current law, Medicare beneficiaries aren't allowed to utilize HSAs. However, under my plan Medicare beneficiaries would be able to continue the HSAs they set up earlier in life, or they could start one once they reach 65 years of age.

My bill also allows parents the ability to create Child Health Savings Accounts to give kids a health-care nest egg when they reach adulthood.

Health insurance should be something that is not lost because someone loses a job; people should have the option to keep the health coverage wherever they go, and should be able to pick and choose insurance packages based on what best suits their health needs. My plan creates a framework for portable health coverage.

Individuals should not have such difficulty in obtaining health coverage due to a pre-existing condition; therefore, we must continue our efforts to provide an avenue for temporary coverage until the marketplace is stable enough to offer coverage to them at a fair price. My plan re-authorizes the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Program through 2016.

We should put patients and doctors in control of health care decisions, not Washington bureaucrats. My plan fosters a patient-centered approach to health care that gives patients the control to choose the doctor, hospital and health care plan that is right for them.

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, represents parts of Hillsborough and Polk counties. He serves on the House Financial Services Committee.

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