At a recent forum sponsored by the South Central Kansas 9.12 Group, Dr. George Watson of Park City, Kansas laid out a conservative case for health care reform. His message was different than that of most reformers: instead of more government involvement, we need less government.
“Yes, we need change,” he said. He also said that a public option will result in government takeover of medicine.
Watson’s plan for reform is this: Each patient or family owns their own policy. There are no mandates and no guaranteed issue. Permit purchases across state lines. Eliminate insurance company clauses that punish subscribers who go outside networks.
Tort reform is necessary too, he said, and he noted that there is no tort reform in the current proposals by Congress or the Obama administration.
Watson said he disagrees with rankings by the World Health Organization that place France first, and the United States comes in 23rd. He said that anyone with means comes to the United States for the best health care that money can buy.
A problem, Watson said, is that “Every patient with a Medicare or Medicaid card has no concern for cost. They think the government will pay for it.” Adding more people to these ranks will drive up demand and prices, he said.
What is the problem with existing health insurance? The problem, Watson said, is that workers don’t own their policies. The solution is simple: each individual should be free to purchase a health policy just like auto or life policies, he said.
These policies should be high-deductible policies — $5,000 or $10,000 — he said.
There are two questions that patients should be asking their doctors, but the current insurance model doesn’t provide an incentive to be concerned with them: What does it cost? Is it really necessary?
Watson mentioned the organization Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc. as an organization and advocates health care reform that will benefit patients.
An interesting fact about Watson’s medical practice is that it doesn’t accept health insurance or Medicare. Instead, he says he charges patients a fair cash price. His office has no connection to any health insurance company computer or government computer.
Watson mentioned Surgery Center of Oklahoma as an example of an organization that takes no government money, insurance, or Medicare. It also posts its prices for surgery on its website.
I questioned Watson about pre-existing conditions, as this seems one of the thorniest problems to solve. He said that large employers have the clout to force insurance companies to insure all their employees. For individuals, however, it’s a tougher issue. We have to look at health insurance more like auto insurance, where choices that people make play a role in the availability and cost of insurance. Charity plays a role, too.
He told of how the Wichita Independent Business Association opened up their health care plan to those who couldn’t get insurance. They got many people with pre-existing conditions, and the cost bankrupted their insurance plan.
He also said that we could tell insurance companies that if you want to operate in our state, you have to take a certain percent of pre-existing conditions, but there should be no mandates. This seems to be a contradiction of sorts.
Answering a question about our system where employer-based insurance is the way that most people get health insurance, Watson said we should level the playing field with regard to the tax deductibility of health insurance premiums. Presently, employees earn money, but the employer sends it to the insurance company.
“First dollar” is also an important principle, going back to the two golden questions: What does it cost? Is it really necessary?
Watson, to be sure, presents a conservative and not a libertarian plan for reform. My question about the elimination or relaxation of medical licensure, a proposal made by Milton Friedman in his work Capitalism and Freedom drew a chuckle from Watson. He said that we must have regulation, and that physicians must be licensed by the states.