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Look to the Private Sector, not Government, to Save Health Care

Walter Russell Mead

Jeff Bezos, now the world’s richest man, seems to have figured out that the next wave of great American fortunes are going to be made by people who figure out ways to cut the inefficiency out of the health care system. Axios reports:

Amazon has a secret team working on ways to move the e-commerce giant into the health care industry, CNBC reports. Aside from its plan to start distributing prescription drugs, which CNBC previously reported, Amazon also is looking into analyzing electronic health record data and creating a platform for virtual doctor visits.

It’s innovative projects like this—not legislation jammed through Congress on a party-line vote—that will ultimately turn the health care system from a huge drag on the country to something that empowers and enriches us even as we get better and cheaper care.

Bezos is also right that IT is going to be a big part of this. Telemedicine—video calls to doctors who can send prescriptions via Amazon—has huge potential. Yes, there are problems (we could do without Dr. Feelgood’s telemedicine practice writing thousands of oxycontin prescriptions a day), but the current system is a costly disaster. There isn’t a magic bullet—a single law or a single innovation—that can untangle this complex and suffocating mess. There will be lots of partial answers, some more important than others, that ultimately get us to the kind of health care system that Americans are satisfied with.

How will we know we’ve gotten there? For one thing, the average family will be able to pay the average health care bill in an average year. Insurance will return to its core function of cost-smoothing and protection against catastrophe. And the country we will be able to afford insurance subsidies for those who can’t afford to buy it on their own.

Part of the reason the GOP has gotten itself into such an ugly fix over health care is that it’s accepted the statist premise that government can create a 21st century health care system by legislative fiat and administrative regulation. There is no solution along those lines.

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