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Another View -- Jeb Bush: Incentives, not mandates, will bring down health care costs

October 12. 2015 9:31PM

Today, I'm rolling out an aggressive plan to repeal Obamacare once and for all and replace it with conservative reforms that lower health care costs.

One of the biggest flaws of Obamacare — something that was easily predicted by those who read the bill before it became law — is that it resulted in skyrocketing health care premiums across the country. In New Hampshire, carriers are asking for exchange plan premium increases between 19 and 51 percent and in the coming days, Granite Staters will find out what the final premium increase will be for their families.

Just as we predicted the staggering increases, we can also predict the response from the Washington crowd. Some will blame the insurance companies. Some will call for more Washington spending and regulations — the very “solutions” that have caused this problem. Some may rightly blame Obamacare, but fail to offer their own alternatives.

None of these responses will solve the fundamental problem: Central planners have been impeding value and access in America’s health care system for decades.

Obamacare is the latest example of how Washington makes health care and health coverage so extraordinarily expensive. Obamacare’s mandates and taxes force Americans to buy expensive products with benefits they don’t want and may never need. It also places a disproportionate share of the premium costs on the young and healthy. In addition to higher individual premiums, it costs small businesses more to comply with Obamacare’s myriad new rules than it does to insure a worker.

As a result of Obamacare, providers are not being held directly accountable to patients for the value of the care they deliver, and little information is available to consumers on prices and quality. Furthermore, insurance companies and the government control costs and how care is delivered, leaving little opportunity for doctors, hospitals and entrepreneurs to design innovative solutions to improve value.

I am proposing solutions that center health care around individuals, and enable innovation to make care more accessible, convenient, personal and affordable. Here is how I will address high health care costs:

• Provide support for the purchase of affordable, portable health plans that protect Americans from high-cost medical events.

• Help Americans with out-of-pocket costs by enabling individuals to save $6,550 a year in a Health Savings Account (HSA) and making associated health plans work for individuals with chronic conditions.

• Insist on costs and outcomes transparency so patients have the information they need to make value-conscious decisions about their care.

• Encourage states to guarantee access for those with pre-existing conditions and to make affordable health plans available in their states.

• Give individuals a $12,000 tax break on the health benefits they receive through their employer — a reform that will encourage lower insurance premiums and higher wages.

• Allow employers to use financial incentives to promote wellness and care for chronic medical conditions.

• Enable small businesses to make tax-free contributions for their workers’ individual, portable health plans.

• Promote innovation by enabling health information technology, modernizing the Food and Drug Administration, investing in the National Institutes of Health, and facilitating big data solutions in health care.

• Give states the accountability and freedom they need to improve care and outcomes for the most vulnerable in our society.

If we’re going to fix health care in this country, we need to wrest control away from Washington and give it back to the states, citizens and their care providers. Entrepreneurs should be liberated to innovate in ways that lower costs and improve access to care — just like American ingenuity does in other sectors of the economy.

Jeb Bush is the former governor of Florida and current candidate running for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

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