July 2010




A viable option?

by Douglas D. Koch, M.D.



I had the opportunity to hear and speak with Regina Hertzlinger of Harvard Business School . She was an invited speaker at the May meeting of the American Ophthalmological Society. She has an innovative proposal that she believes will alleviate our healthcare financial crisis.  

Dr. Hertzlinger advocates consumer-driven healthcare and recommends 2 key steps:  1) allow people to cash out of corporate health insurance and buy their own and 2) make health insurance tax deductible for them (as it is now for businesses). She believes and persuasively argues that these “simple” but major steps will facilitate greater consumer choice, reduce healthcare costs, and allow us to avoid a single-payor system. She has spoken to the White House (who likes the tax revenues that this will generate, since folks will be taxed on the extra income they will retain by buying cheaper health insurance) and to some Republican senators, who of course favor this type of market-driven approach and apparently plan to introduce a bill on this.  

I asked her about Medicare, and she feels that Congress and the U.S. is not ready for privatization of Medicare. She advocates starting the consumer-driven approach first with private insurance, allowing people to become accustomed to this approach this so that they will push for it eventually for Medicare as well.

She also supports many aspects of the healthcare reform bill, particularly the extension of coverage to more people, but she sees her approach as the best one to avoid bankrupting the system (with or without the new healthcare reform bill).

She characterizes her approach as a win-win:  as individuals find less expensive healthcare plans, they will retain more income; this will increase tax revenues, while healthcare costs will decrease through consumer choice.  There obviously have to be careful simulations of such a bold proposal, but at this point it seems far preferable to a single-payer system.  

A viable option? A viable option?
Ophthalmology News - EyeWorld Magazine
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