Clark Howard, a consumer advocate who regularly appears on TV/Radio/etc, got it absolutely right when he delivered his own health care reform ‘speech’. This reform must be consumer driven, with the emphasis placed on the individual taking responsibility for their own health care!

“Madam Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress and the most beautiful First Lady in the history of the United States (Clark’s wife Lane), I want to address you about health care reform and what I want you to put on my desk to sign into law.

For months, there have been angry words and both sides of the aisle have been talking past each other. But tonight I propose we go to a health care system that we can afford and that will allow market forces to finally enter health care in the United States.

We must address head-on that the federal government deficits we are running are not sustainable. The commitments to seniors with Medicare and the impoverished with Medicaid are not sustainable. We can not afford as a federal government to provide for the health care of the citizenry. It’s just not possible.

In addition, our current system is based largely on luck. Either you’re lucky enough to work for an employer that provides health coverage or you unlucky enough to be self-employed, work for a smaller employer or have a pre-existing condition that makes you a pariah for insurers.

Employer provided health care was an accident of history. It only exists because of a move by employers some 50 years ago to provide health care as a back-door way to give raises during the days of wage price controls — when the feds said that employers couldn’t give pay raises.

Unfortunately, it’s grown into an unsustainable haphazard system. If you go back 50 years, an employee would be a “lifer” at a job and there was a reciprocal relationship between employer and employee. Today it doesn’t work like that. Employers add or subtract employees at will and we pick up and move as we see fit.

But many times someone may have an illness and can’t leave an employer because of health coverage. We need a new system to address the fact that we don’t stay put for a long time. We need to move away from centralization of health care from government or employers.

We also need to introduce the marketplace. How can this be done? We need to create an individual health insurance market where each individual in each family buys his or her own coverage. We can’t allow employers to be the sole source of safe venue for coverage, but instead have to create an insurance market based on the principles of standardized policies.

Insurers will be allowed to charge what they wish based on age/sex, but we need standard policies you can pick and choose from.

Choice is the key to driving smart decisions. Some like the structure of an HMO, some like the freedom of a traditional fee-for-service plan. Others want an in-between option like a PPO with a list of cheap in-network providers and more costly out-of-network ones. Yet others, such as entrepreneurs, love HSAs, where you take a high-deductible health insurance plan and you are essentially your own insurer for routine things.

We should allow Americans to choose from all 4 options, but the coverage should be standardized across all insurance companies so consumers can comparison shop.

Not everybody should have to buy the same HMO or the same PPO coverage. I think there should be 3 levels of choice in each — 3 different HMOs, 3 PPOs, 3 traditional plans and 3 HSAs, each with different levels of coverage.

For example, a basic plan would provide only generics medications and no experimental treatments. Each level would have different care for you. But you would have the choice of what you want to buy.

If an employer wants to subsidize the health care with a voucher, that’s fine, but you would still be in control of the purchase. So even if you left your employer, you would still have insurance.

If someone chooses not to buy insurance, that’s fine too. If you do become ill, you’ll be barred from buying coverage for 24 months. Otherwise, the healthy would never buy until they’re sick.

The moral choice is so key here. If we rely on government or an employer to decide what coverage is good for us, we give them the power of life and death over us. But if we make our own choice, then it puts us in control and eliminates the moral dilemma of will we tax ourselves more to provide more coverage or tax less to provide less coverage.

And for those without means, both sides of the aisle seem to agree on a voucher system that would scale back as the level of income rises. I think that’s a reasonable option. But I can tell you that we can not solve the cost issue with health care, without having a collision with morality, if we do not put the patient in charge. That’s the key.

You must be the person who decides what coverage you want, what coverage you choose not to buy and who you buy it from. It’s that simple. Health care costs account for one-sixth of our economy and we have to get control of that one-sixth, but at the same time provide true power back where it belongs — with the American people. Thank you very much.”