Frankly, I am no fan of Donald Trump, let alone any of the other candidates from either party. But having served in healthcare industry leadership capacities early in my professional career, I have to admit to being absolutely floored by Trump’s health reform plan. What I found shocking about it is that from top to bottom, it makes so much sense.
Let’s be honest, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has been a disastrous nightmare even to the scores of people who were originally rabid supporters. While a noble attempt at reform, many would agree that it has fallen short of even the most limited expectations. I will, however, give this landmark piece of legislation credit for fueling some much-needed debate about the plight of our broken healthcare system.
As many prognosticators originally predicted, Obamacare is on a course of implosion amid soaring costs, technology snafus, patient access barriers, high premiums and deductibles and lackluster consumer choices. The only beneficiaries of this are hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.
Recently, I decided to take a look at Trump’s campaign website, albeit reluctantly and was stunned by his level-headed solutions to the current healthcare quagmire. Here are some of the key elements of what he is proposing, as well as my commentary on each of them:
Free Market Driven: Noted Harvard Professor Michael Porter penned a wonderful book a number of years ago, extolling the virtues of free market healthcare. Sadly, it fell on the deaf ears of our statist political system. Undeniably, free market competition has consistently delivered positive returns in terms of lower business costs while increasing quality outcomes. And, health care which is rapidly approaching one-quarter of our GDP, is BIG business. Unlike the other candidates, Trump gets that.
Economic Freedom and Choice: Trump is very clear in his intention to abolish the Obamacare individual mandate if elected, a point upon which I strongly agree with hi. To me, restricting choice among consumers is simply un-American, because no one should be forced to purchase insurance. Free markets open the doors to the affordable, high-quality plans that consumers are clamoring for. If the airline industry can figure this out – Southwest Airlines low fares and quality service have revolutionized this market – then the health care industry can too.
As an aside, I recently witnessed a moderately injured person get forced by police and paramedics into an ambulance ride to a local hospital. Despite his pleas to the contrary, there was some arcane law which mandated he had to go. Of course, he loudly proclaimed that he was without health insurance due to the expense and that he would be a burden on society. No dice. He was physically lifted into the ambulance, and off he went. “
Health Insurance Access and Portability: Trump strongly endorses the sale and portability of health coverage across state lines. National market competition will cause insurance costs to plummet and consumer satisfaction to go up.
Tax Deductibility: I have long been befuddled as to why mortgages are deductible but not health insurance. And if businesses are permitted to take these deductions, why aren’t individuals? Am I the only one confused by this?
Restore the Viability of Health Savings Accounts: Personal financial responsibility is a vital element of one’s healthcare. By advocating for the expanded use of Health Saving Accounts (HSAs), Trump seems to be on board with this. Contributions under his plan would be tax-free and could accrue interest. This could spur cash discounts for care, a win-win proposition for both provider and consumer.
Price Transparency: Back when my daughter Gwen (now 14) was born in Carson City, Nevada, my family and I were without health insurance. So knowing that we had the cash to cover my wife’s hospital stay and Gwen’s birth, I inquired about a cost estimate. The response was akin to hearing crickets in a quiet MidWestern corn field! Trump’s plan has the audacity to require price transparency from all healthcare providers, clinics and hospitals. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the ability as a consumer to compare costs (and quality outcomes, for that matter)? Sort of a Yelp for healthcare. And imagine being able to shop around for the best value for medically related procedures and exams. Fancy that!
Medicaid Block Grants to the States: Currently, virtually every state provides benefits beyond what’s required with the current Medicaid model. Trump believes that state governments know their population demographics best and can facilitate the management of Medicaid far better than the bloated and bureaucratic Feds. This will also allow the states to take a more aggressive approach to fraud, waste and the abuse that results in the loss of precious resources.
Create a More Open Free Market for Drug Providers: I know, I know. You may be reading this and thinking “Won’t free markets further enrich the pharmaceutical industry?” Actually, to the contrary. Competition from drug providers that provide safe, reliable and cheaper products, free from onerous regulatory constraints, can actually lower costs while saving immeasurable lives. Moreover, Trump’s plan is supportive of opening access to imported drugs from overseas, a move that will keep the domestic pharmaceutical industry honest in terms of managing these costs. As stated on his website, “Congress needs the courage to step away from special interests and do what’s right for America.”
Retooling the Mental Health System: Following another unfortunate random shooting, Trump astutely remarked that “America has a mental health problem, not a gun problem.” I believe he is spot on in this view. His health care model would call for extensive reform of mental health programs and systems in the U.S. Like Trump, I believe this issue has been vastly overlooked, particularly with respect to the growing numbers of the homeless in our nation.
Health Care for our Veterans: I’ll go on the record and say that the sad state of the VA health system is perhaps the biggest travesty and embarrassment to the U.S. In my view, how veterans have been treated borders on the criminal. That’s why I was glad to hear that the guiding element of Trump’s plan is to ensure the highest quality of care is accessible to our nation’s veterans. Using a football analogy, Trump believes that this transformation is best achieved through basic blocking and tackling; decreased wait times, improved healthcare outcomes and the effective facilitation of our enlisted men and women from service to civilian life.
Trump and his operatives believe these tenets are just a starting point in terms of lowering costs, improving patient access and enhancing the quality of care. I believe that one of the downfalls of Obamacare is that the legislation tried to bite off more than it could chew, right out of the gate. This attempt to fix the system in one comprehensive swoop has proven to be an ill-advised move, one that has certainly informed the Trump plan in terms of forging a new approach.
Ultimately, the key to reform is sound free-market measures that boost the economy and bring investments and high-paying jobs back to America. This will prove to be the most effective means of reducing our dependence on government in terms of managing the largest and most complex healthcare system on the planet.
Michael Scott is a Denver-based journalist focusing on emerging trends fueling the new digital economy. More of my writings can be found at BitDisrupt