Tags: Financial Markets | Healthcare Reform | Medicare | Presidential History | mencken | controls | price

Markets, Not Govt, Can Eliminate Surprise Medical Bills

Markets, Not Govt, Can Eliminate Surprise Medical Bills


By Tuesday, 10 March 2020 12:11 PM Current | Bio | Archive

It may have been H.L. Mencken who said that," For every problem there is a solution that is simple, neat — and wrong."

He would have loved federal price controls. So simple. So neat. So wrong.

For decades, policymakers in Washington, D.C., thinking themselves smarter than the market at large, have been trying to set prices for commodities and services.

From the 1970s right on up to today — they have failed.

Price controls led to shortages of gasoline, for example, during the Nixon and Carter administrations. When Ronald Reagan lifted price controls on gasoline, companies responded and flooded the market with fuel. Prices plunged, and consumers benefited.

But we haven’t learned our lesson about price controls when it comes to an important segment of the economy: health care. Faced with the latest crisis, surprise medical billing, policymakers in Washington are eager to impose new price control policies.

Let’s begin by acknowledging that surprise medical billing should never occur.

It happens when a patient plays by the rules, tries to stay within her insurance network, but accidently sees a doctor who is out-of-network. That can happen in a hospital or at an ER, where the patient can’t choose her provider in an emergency. The insurance company then refuses to pay, and the customer is stuck with a bill that should have been covered by insurance.

This problem is costing patients money, and it should be fixed. But it won’t be fixed by bureaucrats trying to set the correct price for every medical procedure in every region of the country at any time. That’s simply impossible.

Conservatives know this, and are pushing back against some recent congressional proposals. "Surprise medical billing proposals that give the federal government the power to set rates between two private entities — insurers and health care providers — could have a devastating impact on our constituents," conservative leaders in the House of Representatives wrote recently to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The concern is bipartisan. "This bill as written really does put a thumb on the scale. We have to think about what will happen down the line,” Democratic Rep. Kimberly Schrier warned, adding that the threat of price fixing "puts hospitals at risk."

The bills in question are a U.S. House Ways and Means Committee proposal and a House Education and Labor Committee's proposal. They would use various methods, ranging from arbitration to simply setting prices, to attempt to end surprise medical billing.

This simply shifts the burden away from where it belongs: with insurance companies.

Big insurance companies backed Obamacare, assuming that a federal law that mandated everyone must purchase their product would be good for their bottom lines.

They were correct.

Insurance giants including Humana, Cigna and Anthem are raking in record profits these days, while patients seldom have any choices about what plan to belong to.

The solution is to give more power to the patient, the person who is actually getting the care and is responsible for the spending. People want value for their investment, so empowering them will help drive prices down.

Instead, Obamacare’s many mandates put insurance companies in charge. They could divide up territories and choose whether to compete or not. Competition on price basically vanished from the market. Surprise medical billing arrived.

The problem of surprise medical billing was created by insurance companies, who now want even more regulation to "fix" it. They want doctors and patients to pay the price. Lawmakers should say no, and should insist on a conservative, market-based solution to this big-government problem.

Steve Gruber is a conservative talk show host with 25 affiliates in Michigan. "The Steve Gruber Show" launched in 2012 with just four affiliates and has grown into the most powerful name in talk radio across Michigan. Steve has been named “Best Morning Personality” by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters five years in a row. His conservative, common-sense philosophy was developed during his time growing up in rural Michigan. Steve’s early career found him in several newsrooms including WILX, Lansing where he honed his investigative journalism and interviewing skills. He became the main news anchor of the station and before long was offered a job with NBC in Columbus, Ohio. While working for NBC, he covered the incredible launch of John Glenn, age 77, into space at Cape Canaveral, White Supremacists in Ohio, and the deadly game of selling prescription medication online. Steve was nominated for an Emmy in 2000. To read more of this reports — Click Here Now.

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Price controls led to shortages of gasoline, for example, during the Nixon and Carter administrations. When Ronald Reagan lifted price controls on gasoline, companies responded and flooded the market with fuel. Prices plunged, and consumers benefited.
mencken, controls, price, obamacare
Tuesday, 10 March 2020 12:11 PM
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