Administrators don’t heal people, doctors do. And as we’ve recently seen on a grand tragic scale, health care inefficiency costs lives. It’s time we purge health care’s administrative state, in Ohio and across the U.S.
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the U.S. health care system is largely inflexible, uncreative and sluggish under pressure. While the flaws of our broken health care system are well-known, there’s only one prominent proposal for change on the table, and it appears to now be supported by a majority of Americans: Medicare for All.
Opponents of government-controlled health care must get serious about proposing alternative, substantive solutions that reduce the cost of health care while simultaneously increasing access for everyone. Drastically reducing the administrative bloat would do just that.
The next time you look at your health care bill, divide it by three. That’s how much you’re paying just to cover the billing agent, insurance processor, compliance officer and any other staff members needed to ensure that private companies don’t run afoul of government regulations. Surely this process can be streamlined.
Yet the growth of health care’s administrative state in recent decades has been astronomical. Harvard Business Review estimates that there are as many as 10 administrative staff members per one doctor in the United States. With approximately 1 million physicians in the U.S., we’re looking at 10 million administrative personnel in our health care system.
Administrators don’t decrease wait times, provide more medical treatment, strengthen our health care system or actually do the work of healing people. Physicians do that. While the health care industry continues to add more and more administrators, with an increase of 3,200% in the past 35 years, the number of actual doctors has increased by only 150% over that same period. Meanwhile, we’re facing a significant shortage of physicians.
This problem has a straightforward fix: Identify and reduce unnecessary regulations on the health care industry, thereby reducing the number of compliance officers needed.
Reducing administrative barriers would do much to increase the amount of care that can be given to patients as well. For example, certified nurse practitioners and physician assistants are trained medical professionals who could conceivably provide more treatments to patients than they are currently able, should the law expand their permitted scope of practice.
States also could reduce restrictions on telehealth, allowing quality health care to travel to patients, rather than vice versa. And regulations like Ohio’s certificate of need laws unnecessarily restrict the amount of health care equipment a hospital can purchase by requiring government review and permission before any expansion to health care facilities can be made. These laws should be repealed outright, as now 15 other states have done.
In addition, states could provide reciprocity for out-of-state licenses, which would hasten the rate at which health care providers could start working when they move.
Each of these policy changes would increase the flexibility of health care professionals to do what they do best: heal people. With a shortage of physicians and a fragile health care system, now is the time to implement these changes.
Congress must tackle the administrative state in the health care industry immediately. This was one of the few points of agreement in CNN’s 2017 health care debate between Sens. Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz — two high-profile legislators with very different views on health care.
One of Medicare for All’s chief selling points is that it would allegedly streamline the administrative system and make health care cheaper. Markets can streamline industries and cut bloated systems much better than government programs, while driving innovation and additional efficiencies on top of it. By failing to propose real solutions that move the U.S. toward a truly market-based health care system, we’re not only doing a disservice to sound policy, but to millions of Americans who need better, cheaper and faster health care.
Chris Harelson is the executive director of Prosperity Utah and a contributor to Young Voices, a nonprofit talent agency for young professionals in market-oriented policy.