Originally created 01/19/98

Wants free market to fix health care 011998 - The Augusta Chronicle



The Jan 9 Cal Thomas column "Clinton, some in GOP, would spend surplus," requires a response to claims regarding reform of the health insurance industry.

I agree that the free market can correct many problems that exist in today's health care industry. But to be free, the market must be one that includes the twin principles of individual choice and accountability in today's market.

We have abandoned the doctor-patient relationship in favor of an employer-insurance company relationship. Employers choose health insurance plans; health insurance plans choose doctors, hospitals, and treatments -- and far too frequently the only choice left the patients is to quit their jobs if those choices are not to their liking. The only real difference between socialized medicine, which the column rightfully decried, and today's system, is that corporate bureaucrats call the shots instead of government bureaucrats.

A free market should allow patients to make their own choices. As long as other people stand between the buyer and the seller for any product or service, a free market does not exist.

A free market also requires both parties in a contract to be able to equally enforce their contractual agreement. But because of a loop-hole in federal law, patients who are injured because of the decision of a managed care organization (as opposed to a doctor or other health care provider) cannot hold that organization responsible in court.

No other industry in our free-market economy enjoys such a congressionally-mandated legal shield against responsibility for damages caused by their actions.

Unfortunately, some conservatives seem to believe that insurance companies shouldn't be held to the same standards as other producers of good services in our economy.

To get back to a market-based system in health care, one fundamental step should be requiring managed care medical decision-makers be accountable for the injury they cause. ...

U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, Washington, D.C