Guest Opinion: The conservative case for health-care reform


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A majority of so-called Republican strategists believe that health care is a Democratic issue. They are wrong: Health care is an American issue, and the Republican Party has an opportunity to demonstrate that conservative principles work when applied to real-world problems.

Yet hope for meaningful reform need not be lost. Only two things need to happen. First, Democrats have to give up on their grand experiment and get serious about bipartisan solutions. Second, Republicans have to join the battle of ideas.

To be clear, the Republicans in Congress who have led the opposition to the Obama-Pelosi vision of health-care reform have done the right thing for our country.

But Republicans must shift gears. Conservatives should seize the mantle of reform and lead.

Conservatives either genuinely believe that conservative principles will work to solve real-world problems such as health care or they don’t. I believe they will.

So here are some ideas to increase the affordability and quality of health care:

• Voluntary purchasing pools: Give individuals and small businesses the opportunities that large businesses and the government have to seek lower insurance costs.

• Portability: As people change jobs or move across state lines, they change insurance plans.

• Lawsuit reform: It makes no sense to ignore one of the biggest cost drivers in the system — the cost of defensive medicine, largely driven by lawsuits.

• Require coverage of pre-existing conditions: Companies should have incentives to focus on delivering high-quality effective care, not to avoid covering the sick.

• Transparency and payment reform: Consumers have more information when choosing a car or restaurant than when selecting a health-care provider.

• Tax-free health savings accounts: Some businesses have seen their costs decrease by double-digit percentages. But current regulations discourage individuals and small businesses from utilizing such accounts.

• Reward healthy lifestyle choices: Providing premium rebates and other incentives to people who make healthy choices or participate in management of their chronic diseases has been shown to reduce costs and improve health.

• Cover young adults: Permitting young people to stay on their parents’ plans longer would reduce the number of uninsured and keep healthy people in insurance risk pools — helping to lower premiums for everyone.

• Refundable tax credits: We should trust American families to make choices for themselves while we ensure they have access to quality, affordable health care.

In short, ideas matter. The public is interested in solutions that will improve America’s health-care system, not dismantle it. Republicans can lead on this.

Bobby Jindal is the Republican governor of Louisiana. A version of this commentary appeared in Monday’s Washington Post.

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