Thanks to Jon Huntsman, Utah is leading the way on health care reform

David Clark Contributor
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Voters are still reeling from President Barack Obama’s overhaul of the nation’s health care system, so it’s no surprise that as they begin examining in earnest the records of his would-be Republican replacements, they will devote a great measure of their time to health care reform. In the record of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, with whom I worked closely as the speaker of Utah’s House of Representatives, voters will find the marketplace reforms that our national health care system desperately needs.

Presidential politics are focusing on health care reform because Americans care about affordable and sustainable access to health care.

Utah has created a defined-contribution health care marketplace that increases consumer information and choice, and offers Utah employers cost-effective solutions for providing health insurance to their employees through the use of the Utah Health Care Exchange. The number of employers enrolling in the Exchange is growing, and its defined-contribution approach is reaching people who were previously uninsured. Utah’s reform was accomplished without imposing government mandates on Utah’s citizens.

As responsible elected officials, we sought input from a broad range of perspectives. Governor Huntsman and dedicated legislative leaders agreed to bring all stakeholders to the reform table to ensure every relevant perspective was represented. We all were committed to changing a system we knew to be unsustainable. We therefore set a high standard of engagement to guarantee there would be meaningful reform. We listened to every voice and everything was on the table for discussion, including mandates. After considering all feasible reform options, we determined that market-based principles — not mandates — were the right choice for reforming health care.

When Governor Huntsman and I charted the way forward, our priorities aligned. We knew that an effective health care system must lower costs and provide more coverage. We set goals of giving small businesses and families fair and affordable ways of taking responsibility for their own health care needs. It became clear that mandates would, in many ways, negatively impact these goals. We realized that a system of defined-contribution reform would create market-based innovation, where our country has always found useful answers.

Health care system reform is not a simple task. In Utah, however, we’ve made great strides in applying market-based principles to systemic reform, thereby giving consumers greater choice, transparency, and information, rather than limiting their options and mandating their behavior.

As Utah’s governor, Jon Huntsman understood that market-based reforms are the most effective way — politically, economically, and fiscally — to bring about needed changes to a dysfunctional health care system. Jon Huntsman understands that Americans want well-educated decisions by consumers, policy-makers, and voters that are achieved through inclusion, information, and value-based problem solving. Because of pioneering leadership by Jon Huntsman, leadership that has been continued by Governor Gary Herbert, and the dedicated work of legislative leaders and their staffs, Utah is leading the way in health care system reform.

David Clark is a Utah state representative and former Speaker of Utah’s House of Representatives. He was the primary sponsor of Utah’s Health System Reform Bill.