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Op-Ed: First Step: Allow Shopping Across State Border


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Op-Ed: First Step: Allow Shopping Across State Border

Thursday's Summit at Blair House was an opportunity for congressional leaders and the president to engage in a bipartisan discussion on health care.

This was the first transparent discussion on the issue, a full year after the initial bills were introduced. But more importantly, it let Americans hear the philosophical divide between the president and Democratic leadership, who believe more government is the answer, and Republicans, who believe an empowered consumer -- not an overreaching bureaucracy -- is the solution. And it showed that Republicans are not the party of "no," but the party of "know."

I am proud that four Tennesseans were part of the exchange. Before the summit began, I consulted a fifth Tennessean who truly should have been part of the conversation, Gov. Phil Bredesen. As America's most experienced health-care governor, he would have urged my colleagues to take this process one step at a time. I could not agree more.

The first step I would take is one that the governor agreed could be part of the solution --permitting the purchase of health insurance across state lines.

The road to expanded access to affordable health care is best traveled with patients in the driver's seat. State borders are virtual stop signs in the health-care marketplace that should be eliminated. Americans are the world's most robust consumers and best bargain hunters. Hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans live within 15 miles of the state line. People drive across state borders to find a better deal on a car or get on the Internet to search out the best price on appliances. Why not do the same with the health insurance?

Tennesseans could save nearly $1,000 a year if they were allowed to buy insurance policies from most of our neighboring states. President Barack Obama said he is open to this step. Unfortunately, he prefers what is contained in the Democrats' bills, which is increasing the number of insurance companies rather than allowing the public to find plans across the country that best fit their needs. As I told the president, let the people out.

President Obama and most Democrats claim that across-state-line purchasing is just a "race to the bottom" -- that Americans will buy the least responsible, least regulated, least expensive policy. But that argument is just big-government arrogance.

State regulators aren't the sole proprietors of common sense in the health-care field.

The TennCare debacle has made Tennesseans eager and educated to find better health-care coverage outside our state borders.

The Obama/Democrats solution is to increase Washington bureaucracy and impose unnecessary red-tape mandates known to drive up costs. TennCare is the ultimate proof of this recipe for failure.

Republicans want to empower patients through expanded markets and increased competition. With an incremental approach to health-care reform based on
free-market ideas, we will bring down the cost of care while expanding access without new entitlement programs or more federal debt. There is clearly broad bipartisan support for allowing Americans to buy health insurance outside their own state's borders, so let's take down that stop sign and give the people a real sign of health-care reform now.

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