Health Care Rx: Transparency, Competition and Choice

Special Guests: Joe Antos

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On the latest Facing the Future Joe Antos, the Wilson H. Taylor Scholar in Health Care and Retirement Policy at the American Enterprise Institute, discussed the nation’s health care system and potential reforms to help reduce cost growth.

Robert L. Bixby, The Concord Coalition’s executive director, framed the conversation by explaining the system’s current costs.

Bixby said the federal government spends a little over $1 trillion a year on health care, and “within 10 years it’s going to more than double that under current projections.”

“So it’s an incredibly big part of the federal budget, and it is the one that’s growing faster than the economy,” he said. “We’ve got an aging population, but it is also because health care costs grow faster than general inflation.”

Antos focused on a need for accountability, transparency and choice in health care treatments and pricing. He said the average person does not see the true cost of health care because of subsidies, tax breaks, co-pays, premiums and more.

“It’s a big complicated situation, and nobody really understands at that gut level where they could take personal action,” he said. “What is it costing me, and what are my alternatives?”

“All of the studies . . . say that people don’t shop,” Antos said. “Well, that makes sense to me . . . if you can’t get the information, you have no basis for looking around.”

He added that our system has mixed incentives that do not mesh, and “so what we really need is to align these things.”

“We want truly personalized medicine of the sort that will be facilitated by better information and better communication,” he said.

Antos said that no matter the reforms suggested by Republicans and Democrats, key rules within the Affordable Care Act are important and will be retained, especially coverage for people with preexisting conditions: “Every politician has said . . . we need to protect people with preexisting conditions.”

Antos called for a responsible discussion by policymakers and presidential candidates about the health care system, including individual affordability, subsidies for those that need them, and the cost of the system in general.

“There’s no magic bullet here; that’s part of the problem,” Antos said. “Politicians need the magic bullet, but reality says you need to work on specific problems with specific solutions.”

“You have to start from where you are . . . in terms of cost, in terms of access, in terms of quality, in terms of innovation in health care,” he said. “But there are tradeoffs; you can’t have it all.”


Hear more on “Facing the Future.” I host the program each week on WKXL, (N.H.), and it is also available via podcast. Join me and my guests as we discuss issues relating to national fiscal policy with budget experts, industry leaders, elected officials and candidates for public office. Past broadcasts are available here. You can now subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play or through RSS.

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