DeMint: Health-Care Freedom

The growing public skepticism toward President Obama’s federal takeover of American health care is a welcome reminder of the wisdom and responsibility of the American people. In a certain sense, the collapsing support for the Democrats’ scheme was inevitable. After all, the initial “support” was always based on the president’s gauzy aspirations rather than on the ghastly details of 800-page legislation written by a Star Wars cantina of corporate lobbyists and liberal committee chairmen.

The fact of the matter is that there never was a real base of support for the plan the president and his party favor. The American people intuitively understand that the biggest problems in our health-care system -- unresponsiveness, waste, and bureaucratic headaches -- are exactly the kinds of things that government makes worse. Indeed, most of the existing problems are the result of the role the government already plays in the health-care system.

What support ever existed for a trillion-dollar government takeover is eroding -- on main street, if not entirely yet on Pennsylvania Avenue.

And yet, our health-care system does need reform. And now is a perfect opportunity for conservatives to make plain a rarely mentioned fact about health-care policy: The most innovative and cost-effective reform ideas out there are on the right -- market-based reforms, based on personalized care, individual choice and patient empowerment.

I have bundled several of these ideas into a comprehensive health-care reform plan that will cover almost all uninsured Americans without spending a new dime of taxpayer money.

Here’s how it works:

If you have insurance right now, either on your own or through your job, you’ll be able to keep it. There are no mandates or hidden crowd-out schemes designed to lure people away from their employer-based plans onto a government plan, like there are in the Democrats’ proposals.

If you don’t have insurance today, or if you do and simply want to shop around for another plan, you will be immediately eligible for a health-care voucher -- $2,000 for individuals and $5,000 for families. You can use that money to buy a health-care plan specifically tailored to your personal needs, a plan that you can own and keep -- even if you change jobs, even if you move, even if you or a member of your family gets sick. That health-care plan will be yours, and the government will never be able to take it over or take it away.

In addition, my proposal would allow you to shop for plans across state lines, so if you live in South Carolina, but the best plan for you is based in Pennsylvania, you can still buy it. This provision to create a truly competitive, national health-care market for the first time will save billions of dollars, as will my plan for overdue medical malpractice legal reforms. And as the new, individualized market grows, insurers, hospitals and doctors will work -- as competitors do in every other industry today -- to improve quality and control costs.

And the best part of the whole thing? It won’t cost you another dime. The Health Care Freedom Plan will be paid for entirely by rescinding billions in Wall Street bailout funds over the next five years, and indeed will leave plenty to spare for deficit reduction. Compared to the Democrats’ plan, my plan will cover more uninsured Americans, in half the time, at no cost.

Health care is one of the most private, personal undertakings of our lives, and for millions of uninsured and underinsured, America’s health-care system is in crisis. But we can fix it. By creating a personalized market based on individual choice and empowering the doctor-patient decision-making team instead of an impersonal government bureaucracy, we can take what does work about American health care and offer it to all Americans, at no additional expense to the taxpayers.

Up to now, the health-care debate has centered around mandates, bureaucracies and even rationing. It’s time to turn the debate toward more practical concerns: choice, fairness and freedom.

For I believe that in health care, as in all things, freedom will work, if we let it.