A Conservative Perspective on Healthcare Reform by Lieutenant Colonel Allen B West (US Army, Retired)

Candidate, Florida US Congressional District 22 AW with constitution 2

30 Aug 2009

This year’s August heat has brought more than high temperatures and developing tropical storms to south Florida.  Political discourse has reached a fever pitch over the proposed health care reforms Congress is proposing.

Our health care system needs reforms.  We must make our system more affordable and accessible to all Americans.  These reforms can be instituted within the classic conservative principles of limited government, liberty, individual responsibility and accountability, and free market solutions.

A true Conservative believes in the individual and setting the conditions for their success. I offer that the post-modern liberal approach feels the “collective” is more important than the individual. Our US Constitution plainly states that the preeminent purpose for Government is to protect the Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness of the citizen, we Americans.

Reducing costs of health care can begin by making changes to our legal system which often results in catastrophic litigation brought against medical professionals.  How many

“tests” are ordered by attending doctors for us only as a precaution against potential lawsuits?

These costs associated with unnecessary lawsuits are real and often have no basis in fact.  A 2006 study by the Harvard School of Public Health found 40% of the lawsuits studied had no patient injury and/or no medical error.  Mississippi and Texas recently passed legal reform and insurance premiums have decreased by as much as 70%.  These are real savings that will be passed on to health care consumers.

However, as former DNC Chairman Howard Dean stated last week in Alexandria, Va at a townhall meeting, the trial lawyer lobby is more influential than doing what is right.

Why is it that healthcare insurance competition is restricted to individual States? Open this up across the country allowing Americans to receive the best possible plan for their needs. This will force insurance companies to compete for our interest, not us being slaves to them.  Personal choice for health care coverage should be a hallmark of any reform.

We need government to provide tax incentives for covering of pre-existing conditions and warn the American people about companies that do not provide best coverage for our citizens. We must also provide tax credits for the working poor, who want health coverage but cannot afford. We can also explore the possibility of increasing child tax deductions for families based upon healthcare costs.

And Americans must have the freedom that portability affords them; they should never have to drop an insurance plan. We have to establish the relationship which is permanent and not that which places them at a disadvantage.

Guaranteed renewable individual insurance contracts are a means by which we can provide Americans the ability to purchase long term, future insurance. This initiative would create the individual relationship, promote portability, and preclude denial on pre-existing conditions. Americans who choose this option would be afforded a tax credit.

We should advocate individual Americans receiving the same tax benefits for individual healthcare plans as enjoyed by employer based plans.

Small businesses should be allowed to pool together in groups in order to have better competition with larger companies and corporations.  Pooling small businesses together will create economies of scale and more employers will offer coverage to their workers.  These associated health care plans can only be propelled forward by Congress taking action today to encourage more competition for our health care dollar.

Flexible health savings plans allow individuals to have money withheld from their paychecks by their employers. This non-taxed money is then refunded to the individual through a claims process. In effect, the government is losing the income tax and social security tax on the money and is setting a condition in which the individual analyzes their annual healthcare needs. In the case of a catastrophic or new condition, an individual’s medical insurance would kick in. Money not spent in a certain year rolls over to the next and the healthcare dollars continue to grow.

Any legal obstruction to this concept should be removed by Congress.

Those who support a single payer, public option plan should recognize this already exists in the form of Medicaid/Medicare/SCHIP. These are government medical programs which are funded by our taxpayer dollars. These programs are intended to cover those who fall within the respective cracks in the system. Just this past January, SCHIP was expanded to beyond the poverty income level to $83K and the definition of a child, according to new legislation was raised to 25 years of age.  Those who are eligible for these programs should be encouraged to sign up for this coverage.

My Dad, who passed in 1986, older brother and I are veterans who interact with the VA Hospital system. I know what government run healthcare systems look like. Ask any Veteran, it is not pretty.

It is well recognized the government run systems are filled with waste and abuse.  Any health care reform must ensure these pre-existing government medical programs are meeting their intended purposes; effectively and efficiently. I would offer this is one of the first lines of attack in healthcare reform for the government.

No discussion of health care reform would be complete without including the costs of covering illegal immigrants.  An administrator at Martin Medical Center recently disclosed one patient who had stayed at the hospital for 760 days.  Another patient had incurred over $1.5 million in health care charges.

Our system simply cannot sustain these costs.  Stopping the flow of illegal immigration to our country will save all citizens money in our personal health care expenditures.

On Tuesday, August, 18 I hosted a health care town hall meeting in Deerfield Beach.  Nearly seven hundred people attended from all walks of life.  At the beginning of the meeting, we announced that all who wish to express their opinions would be given the opportunity to do so.

Many of the attendees expressed very passionate views on health care.  But all were afforded the opportunity to speak their piece and were polite in listening to the views of others.

After listening to the varied views of those in attendance, I recognized there was a common thread running through many of their presentations:

  • Opposition to any expansion of a government run health care system.
  • Keeping government out of the relationship between the patient and their doctor.
  • Expansion of personal choice in selecting health coverage.

I agree with these solutions.  Those in Congress should listen to these citizens in drafting health care legislation.

I served in the military for 22 years and traveled to 13 countries across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. I can assure you we have one of the best health care systems in the world.

Let us never forget that the government is an entity that can run itself at a loss and raise capital by enacting taxation legislation. That is not fair competition between a public option and private sector.

Of course our system needs reforms.  We must always strive to make our systems better.  But I also believe we can reform our health care system while maintaining the conservative principles that have made our country great.

LTC(R) A B West

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2 responses to “A Conservative Perspective on Healthcare Reform by Lieutenant Colonel Allen B West (US Army, Retired)

  1. Need a link to West website.

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