Four Ways Pa. Lawmakers Can Reduce the Cost of Health Care

Bureaucracy just makes things worse. Case in point: Obamacare. Pennsylvanians have faced soaring health care costs and far fewer options ever since the law was passed.  

Thankfully, a new report from the Trump administration recognizes this problem and details ways to increase choice, innovation, and competition to make healthcare less expensive.

The report summarizes:

Health care bills are too complex, choices are too restrained, and insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs are climbing faster than wages and tax revenue. Health care markets could work more efficiently, and Americans could receive more effective, high-value care if we remove and revise certain federal and state regulations and policies that inhibit choice and competition.

Specifically, the report outlines the following solutions for Pennsylvania officials to consider:

1. Eliminate restrictions on the supply of qualified medical providers: State laws and regulations unnecessarily restrain services offered by mid-level health care practitioners (such as pharmacists, physician assistants, dental therapists, and optometrists). For instance, Pennsylvania prevents Certified Nurse Practitioners from opening an independent practice.

We must unleash the experience and skill of these professionals. In many cases, these highly trained experts can safely and effectively provide some of the same health care services as physicians or dentists—often at lesser cost. In addition, Medicaid should directly reimburse these allied health professionals.

2. Let medical professionals move from state to state. Why limit the number of doctors and nurses that can take care of Pennsylvanians just because they are licensed in Ohio or New York? We should either allow practitioners licensed in other states to practice in Pennsylvania via telemedicine, or at least expedite the licensure process. The report bluntly states, “individual health care providers and payers [should] mutually determine whether and when it is safe and appropriate to provide telehealth services.”

3. Revisit policies that keep insurers and providers from forming networks. Health care networks lower prices for people by enabling insurance companies to negotiate lower prices with a select groups of providers. However, unnecessary regulations are keeping prices high by requiring all networks to include certain services, a one-size-fits-all standard. It is incumbent upon Pennsylvania policymakers to second guess policies that force Pennsylvanians to pay more for health care they don’t value.

4. Do not restrict innovative  health care market options: The Trump administration has created lower-cost options for individuals and small businesses looking for affordable insurance. These include short-term duration plans, Association Health Plans, and pending Healthcare Reimbursement Arrangements.

Lawmakers should protect these price-reducing options for Pennsylvanians.

Health care is big, expensive, and broken because far too many health care decisions are decided upon in obscure office buildings. It is tempting for state lawmakers to give up on reform or let D.C. take the blame. But the truth is that about 40 percent of our overall state budget goes to Medicaid (i.e. health care for vulnerable Pennsylvanians). So, our state lawmakers have a clear reason to act to improve competition and reduce health care costs. Plus, all Pennsylvanians deserve relief.