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Akron Univ. School of Law

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How Choice Factors into Health Care Reform

NYT columnist David Leonhardt analyzes whether personal choice can be a part of health care reform.

Health insurers often act like monopolies — like a cable company or the Department of Motor Vehicles — because they resemble monopolies. Consumers, instead of being able to choose freely among insurers, are restricted to the plans their employer offers. So insurers are spared the rigors of true competition, and they end up with high costs and spotty service.

He argues that the Wyden-Bennett Bill of 2007 offers more choice than current versions of health care legislation:

The best-known proposal for giving people more choice is the Wyden-Bennett bill, named for Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, and Robert Bennett, a Utah Republican, who introduced it in the Senate in 2007. There are other broadly similar versions of the idea, too. One comes from Victor Fuchs, a Stanford professor sometimes called the dean of health economists, and Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and an Obama health-policy adviser.

In the simplest version, families would receive a voucher worth as much as their employer spends on their health insurance. They would then buy an insurance plan on an “exchange” where insurers would compete for their business. The government would regulate this exchange. Insurers would be required to offer basic benefits, and insurers that attracted a sicker group of patients would be subsidized by those that attracted a healthier group.

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