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Letter to the editor: Free market essential to health care system

With less than 75 days until the 2018 midterm elections, health care in America has taken center stage in policy debates throughout the country. Our current political climate lends itself to increasingly radical proposals to change our health care system. The fact of the matter is our employer-based system of coverage works for millions of Americans, and with common-sense solutions we can improve our system so it works for everyone.

Right now, health care in North Dakota is working – over 90 percent of North Dakotans are currently covered, with the vast majority receiving coverage through their employer. Radical changes would destabilize our current system and throw it into chaos. As policy makers, we should build on the success of the employer-based system, working to expand coverage and reduce costs for North Dakotans, while maintaining the quality of care Americans have come to expect.

We must push back against calls from the left to move to a single-payer, government funded system. The free market is essential to a health care system that provides timely, quality care at an affordable price. Nationwide, a single payer system would cost $32 trillion over a decade and require an annual tax increase of $24,000 per household. As chairman of the North Dakota House Finance and Taxation Committee, I strive to focus on conservative tax policy that reduces government spending, increases efficiency, and puts money back in the pockets of North Dakotans. A single payer system does none of those things – it would be unsustainable and wrong for North Dakota.

A government-run system could also wreak havoc on rural populations like ours here in Jamestown and in surrounding areas. The federal government, in an effort to drive down the high costs, would likely reimburse physicians at artificially low rates, further exacerbating the current problems rural America faces when it comes to health care access. Additionally, a single-payer system would dramatically increase wait times, disproportionately affecting rural hospitals and clinics, which are already understaffed. Longer wait times can lead to negative health outcomes as doctors are forced to treat only those with medical emergencies at the expense of preventative medicine.

While our employer-based system is working for many, there are still areas where it can be improved. This does not, however, mean we should throw the baby out with the bath water. We can address concerns about rising costs, lack of options and barriers to innovative care without completely overhauling our proven market-based system in favor of a single-payer experiment that has already proven to have poor results in other countries.

(Headland, a Republican, represents District 29 in the North Dakota Legislature.)