If Supreme Court strikes down health care law, then what?

By most accounts, the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to strike down President Obama’s health care law tomorrow, either in whole or in part. If the court’s ruling goes against the law, inquiring minds will want to know: Now what?

Contrary to some opinions, the federal health care takeover – including a vast expansion of influence over the personal health choices of Americans – is not only a suboptimal solution to the nation’s health care problems, it’s not a solution at all. Good intentions notwithstanding, it exacerbates many existing problems and creates new ones.

So what’s the alternative?

Utah in the driver’s seat

If the Supreme Court strikes down the federal health care takeover, it will be a recognition of the reality that the federal road to health care policy solutions is a dead end. This will mean that the only available source for genuine health care policy solutions will be the states and local communities. 

In other words, the only alternative path forward is agreements such as the Health Care Compact – a locally driven, state-by-state approach to solving health care issues – which return full control over health care policy to Utahns who know what is actually happening in the state, rather than federal bureaucrats in Washington. Unlike federal attempts to take over the health care system, the Health Care Compact actually holds promise as a way to provide genuine solutions to health care problems.

Affordable access for all

Within a compact approach to health care policy, the state can pursue truly innovative ways for helping Utahns gain access to affordable, high-quality health care. For instance, the state could abandon insurance as the way to pay for any and all health care services (whether cheap or expensive) while limiting choices of doctors and hospitals. Instead, state policy could encourage Utahns toward tools that give them control and responsibility over their own health care, such as Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) (which would not be limited by nonsensical federal regulations, thanks to the compact).

To make such a patient-centered health care system work, policy could require doctors and hospitals to make pricing information available and transparent (in person and online), so that patients can look for the most affordable option that meets their health care needs. The less that people have someone else cutting a check to pay for their health care, the more responsible people will be with their health care decisions, and the more they will look for less expensive options. In other words, doctors and hospitals will face increasing pressure to find innovative ways to cut the cost of their services, which will help make health care more affordable for everyone.

Just as importantly, when doctors and hospitals are forced to look patients in the eye and tell them (instead of faceless insurance companies) that they are charging them tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, they will likely be quite motivated to think outside the box for ways to make their services less expensive.

HSAs could also provide substantial support for people with pre-existing conditions. Currently, health insurers will either not cover these conditions or will charge an exorbitant premium to do so. An HSA would be free from federal regulations that control coverage and could be structured to assist with the costs of pre-existing conditions. Additionally, the individual’s high-deductible plan would kick in to cover the high costs of treatment for pre-existing conditions such as cancer. With HSAs, individuals are treated equally and not singled out because of a pre-existing condition.

With time, these and other patient-centered health care policies will help decrease health care costs and increase access to quality care.

Help for the poor

The health compact approach would also allow Utahto provide innovative solutions to the problem of making health care accessible to the poor, through policies such as authentic charity care, as an alternative to the current Medicaid system. Many medical professionals in Utah are willing to volunteer their time and resources to help those in need; indeed, many private, volunteer clinics already operate in the state.

Sutherland has proposed that Utah establish a state-chartered Community Health Foundation, which would coordinate a statewide network of free health care clinics funded through private donations and staffed by volunteer professionals.

As you can see, sound alternatives to the federal takeover of health care are far from lacking. You can read more at the following links: