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Health Reform Report - States Need Freedom to Solve Healthcare Challenges

Op-Ed

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By Governor Rick Perry

The biggest problem with federal health care "reform" is that it assumes every state can solve its health care problems in exactly the same way.

Washington fails to take into account that states have different populations, different economic conditions, different geography and different infrastructure. Why, then, assume that a one-size-fits-all approach to supplying health care would effectively meet each state's unique needs?

Yet that is the system in place, and this error is only being exacerbated as the federal government further extends its reach into the health care options of every single American.

Already, we're faced with a Medicaid system that is, even under pre-existing loads, simply unsustainable. According to a report issued last week by Texas' Health and Human Services Commission, our state's Medicaid costs have jumped 170 percent in the last decade, and currently account for more than $16 billion in our state budget.

That's only the beginning. Under the health care reform act signed into law by President Obama, Texas' share of Medicaid costs can be expected to jump as much as $27 billion over 10 years starting in 2014.

For Washington, the solution would be simple: borrow the money and pass the costs along to our children and our children's children in the form of massive, unprecedented national debt. Most states, including Texas, don't have that option, as rational thinkers have previously prevailed and placed balanced budget laws on the books.

However, our federal government's "direction" is leading us toward disaster, with states facing the inevitability of being overwhelmed with Medicaid costs, long before any of these so-called "reforms" will provide relief for the people they're intended to help.

I suspect the people who will lose their jobs in the economic destruction that will accompany these changes would prefer a different approach. I believe that the best solution includes giving states greater flexibility in supplying medical care to their citizens.

Currently, accepting federal dollars means doing things "The Washington Way" in which following mountains of rules absorbs a large portion of the effort. For many states, "The Washington Way" simply doesn't work.

Instead, Washington should return money to the states via block grants without strings attached, allowing each state to identify the best way to use that money to meet the specific needs of its patients, families and taxpayers.

Not only would this allow states to tailor their programs to meet the specific challenges of their populations, it would also prime the pump of innovation.

By giving states the ability to try new approaches, it makes it possible for creative thinkers everywhere in the country to come up with new solutions to pressing problems.

If any of those ideas were right for Texas, you'd better believe we'd swipe it in a heartbeat.

However, under existing law, such innovations are close to impossible, and we're left at the mercies of the current model, which is apparently based on the strategy of throwing more and more money at the problem in hopes it'll somehow solve itself.

That hasn't worked so far, and I maintain it never will.

I remain hopeful that Washington will soon realize that working in partnership with the states is a better plan, and will use them as sources for new ideas and as laboratories to put those ideas into practice. New ideas will get us through this growing challenge; shoveling money and ordering states into lockstep uniformity will not.

Perry is the Governor of Texas.


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