Oct. 13--MICHIGAN CITY -- The United States almost certainly will end up with "Medicare for All," unless the health care industry immediately embraces price transparency and competition.
That's a warning from U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., who said business owners, like himself, are fed up with annual insurance rate increases, and many are at the point where they'd just as soon shift the burden of insuring their employees onto the federal government.
"I think if we did that, we'd give up some of the good things about our health care system," Braun said. "But for society as a whole, it would be better than having it eat up, like Warren Buffet says, it's a tapeworm on our society when it's costing that much."
The first-term senator told members of the Michigan City Chamber of Commerce last week he fought back against annual insurance premium hikes by self-insuring his auto parts distribution company and setting a $5,000 annual deductible, which allowed him to keep employee premiums at just $75 a month.
Braun said when employees are responsible for more of their health care costs, they are more likely to shop around for competitively-priced doctors, treatments and prescription drugs, versus just having to put down a tiny co-payment for their care.
He admitted, though, the health care industry doesn't make it easy to shop around.
In particular, hospitals are permitted in Indiana to keep their "chargemaster," or rate list, secret, and often the prices quoted prior to treatment aren't what ends up on the bill.
"The health care industry needs to accept transparency and competition. Chargemasters across the country ought to be standardized to where we can read them if you have an eighth grade education, so you can see what things cost," Braun said. "Networks ought to disappear. That's a contrivance of insurance companies that give them exclusivity over provider insurance third-party agreements."
"You shine light on this and it'll be just like people using their cell phones when they're trying to save a buck on a loaf of bread at the grocery store."
Braun emphasized that the United States can't afford to have health care continue to comprise 20% of its economy when other countries spend just 9% to 11%, and without significant changes Medicare for All will be viewed as a viable alternative.
"It would be less costly than what we've got now. That's proven because that's the way it works across the rest of the world," Braun said. "But, in doing it, we'd have the same issues that the rest of the world has: rationing, waiting six months to get a knee replaced, prescriptions that you may run out of now and then.
"But when health care becomes so expensive that it's eating up 20% of your gross domestic product, society is better off putting up with some inconveniences because the cost is going to be less. The industry has got to get that through its head."
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