Health care: What we can do

The problems with our health care system stem not from too many market forces, but from too little. Editor: So argues Joshua Sharf, a regular on Backbone Radio and now also a candidate for the Colorado House, in his platform plank on health care. This and other issue statements appear on his website. For comparison, here's the website of his primary opponent. Below is the Sharf plank in full.

Health care in the United States is among the best in the world, but practically nobody likes the system. Our private insurance system is incomprehensible. Our public systems - accounting for fully half of healthcare spending - are expensive, restrictive, inefficient and unfair.

As a result of IRS rules, dating from WWII wage-and-price controls, exempting employer-paid insurance from income tax, many people even make job decisions based on the availability of health insurance.

Some have used this discontent to push for even greater government interference in the system. Calls for mandates, single-payer insurance, even socialized medicine, have become commonplace. The Governor's 208 Commission was stacked with members pre-disposed to further state intervention. The Commission rejected the one free-market proposal presented to it.

In addition, insurance is expensive because we're over-insured. If we bought car insurance like we buy health insurance, we'd have coverage for oil changes, and all have special truck-bed insurance, even for our sub-compacts. Typical health insurance cover routine needs that, for the most part, we could easily afford. And we are required to buy services that we will likely never use.

The government is simply not capable of determining what insurance best fits each of us. We are.

And for these services, we're not spending our own money. We see absolutely no monetary benefit from making smart consumerist choices in our health care. Therefore, there is no incentive for us to save money. Thanks to services like WebMD, we are increasingly consumerist when it comes to our treatment; there is no good reason why we can't adopt similar consumerist attitudes when it comes to payment.

The problems with our health care system stem not from too many market forces, but from too little. The solutions to our health care lie in re-introducing market forces.

Health Savings Accounts, combined with high-deductible catastophic insurance, provide the most efficient, most affordable combination of coverages.

While Medicare and prescription drug reform will have to wait for federal action, there is much we can do at the state level to make insurance and care more afforable for our citizens. We can:

* Change Colorado's Medicaid to more closely resemble HSAs, along the lines of South Carolina's reform;

* Encourage the use of Health Savings Accounts;

* Allow Coloradoans to buy out-of-state health insurance plans to encourage competition;

* Remove restrictions on walk-in clinics to allow Target, Costco, Wal-Mart to provide affordable basic medical care;

* Require hospitals and clinics to make outcome data available for informed consumer comparison.