Editor’s Note: Twila Brase, president and cofounder of the Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, established the Wedge of Health Freedom (JoinTheWedge.com) in 2016. The project identifies health care providers free to treat patients without interference from governments or health insurers. Health Care News Managing Editor Michael Hamilton asked Brase how providers who have joined the Wedge are helping patients take control of their health care decisions.
Hamilton: What is the Wedge of Health Freedom, and what makes it unique?
Brase: The Wedge is a free-trade zone for health care. If you conceptualize health care as a circle, a slice of the circle represents patients and doctors freely interacting with each other. This is happening, but a lot of people don’t understand or even know such a way of dealing with their doctor exists. They think everything about health care has to go through insurance: deductibles, prior authorization, drug formularies, protocols, and such.
Doctors and the patients in the Wedge don’t have any of this interference. The doctors are third-party-payer-free, so they don’t sign contracts with insurance companies or government. They’re willing to see all patients regardless of whether they have insurance.
Hamilton: What distinguishes patients and providers living in the free-trade zone for health care?
Brase: We want the Wedge to grow into the totality of the circle. We want this to be the way health care happens: between the patient and the doctor without outside interference. Then the patient would be fully engaged, because the patient would be asking the prices. Prices will be affordable because there would be none of that financial overhead that today is due to involvement by government, health insurers, and managed care organizations.
We list about 200 doctors who take cash, check, or credit currently listed on what we call the Map of Freedom at JoinTheWedge.com. All they have to do is join. They don’t have to pay any money. Those doctors just come to us and they tell us that they don’t sign any contracts and share our core principles.
Hamilton: Are you suggesting patients should not buy health insurance?
Brase: We are not opposed to health insurance, and we encourage people to have health insurance for what health insurance is for: to protect your finances against a medical catastrophe, the thing that you never want to happen. But today, people use their insurance for just going in and having their baby wellness checkup. They use [it] when they hurt their toe, have an ache or a pain there, need a pill, or other non-catastrophic events.
We believe that the price of medical treatment can be brought down to the pocketbook level if we just take out all the bureaucracy and administration that has resulted from using insurance for things that are not insurance events.
Hamilton: How do health insurance policies covering catastrophes differ from insurance plans required by the Affordable Care Act?
Brase: What we have today under Obamacare are essentially catastrophic policies at a prepaid- health-care price, because Obamacare loaded up the policy with requirements and mandates. There’s still all the bureaucracy attached to it.
We believe that we need to get back to something that used to be called indemnity health insurance. It was a policy that was very affordable because it was a policy that was priced based on the fact that most people never have a catastrophe, or might have only one in their life, and perhaps not until they’re 75 years old.
Hamilton: Would catastrophic health insurance coverage be cheaper than an Obamacare premium?
Brase: Insurance priced for a catastrophe is very affordable because most people will never use it. I am told the premium for a man in his lower 30s buying a true catastrophic policy could get as low as $40 a month.
The price of health care, as opposed to insurance, will also drop. The price of today does not have to be the price of tomorrow. All you have to do is look [at] the free-trade zone of the Wedge, and you’ll see a variety of prices—and mostly very affordable prices. People are used to looking at a doctor’s bill of $200 or $250 just to go in. There are doctors that will charge you no more than a $100 a month for all the access of health care that you want through their office, including stitches, lab work, and certain medications.
Hamilton: Would the American Health Care Act, the Obamacare replacement bill Congress is considering, expand the Wedge of Health Freedom or bring more of the same?
Brase: I think it will likely be more of the same. There will be good things if it passes, such as the end of most Obamacare taxes, individual mandate, and employer mandate. But there’s nothing to guarantee the prices will come down or that you’ll have more choices.
I feel like it gives some freedom to the state, but it really keeps Obamacare in place. We were looking for a true repeal, and we know that there are ways to sink Obamacare. One of our concerns is once the Republicans have announced that they’ve done a repeal and replace of Obamacare, there won’t be enough change, and Republicans claiming they repealed Obamacare will be blamed for its failure when people discover this is untrue.
Michael T. Hamilton ([email protected], @MikeFreeMarket) is a Heartland Institute research fellow and managing editor of Health Care News, author of the weekly Consumer Power Report, and host of the Health Care News Podcast.
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