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Sen. Paul says marketplace should determine healthcare

By DAVID ZOELLER dzoeller@paducahsun.com

The American marketplace is better equipped to bring about healthcare reform than the federal government, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul suggested before an audience of local medical professionals Tuesday.

Paul, an ophthalmologist, was in Paducah to perform pro bono cataract surgeries at Innovative Ophthalmology at Lone Oak Road, the business owned by Dr. Barbara Bowers.

Following the surgeries, he held a meeting with medical professionals from Baptist Health Paducah and Lourdes/Mercy, as well as independent physicians, during the lunch hour at Carson-Myre Heart Center auditorium at Baptist Health.

"I wish I had news to report to you that we fixed Obamacare and everything's fine," Paul said. "And that you can just practice medicine and you won't ever have to worry about the government again. And you won't be filling out all this paperwork that does nothing and adds nothing to the quality of care of the patients. But I would be lying to you if I told you that. We're not done yet."

Of the effort to repeal/replace the Affordable Care Act, "The main thing is we want to get it right," Paul said.

"Once Republicans do get their hands on healthcare, they will own it. We'll be responsible for what's either right or wrong with it. I've practiced (medicine) long enough to know that the era before Obamacare, it was dysfunctional. It didn't work before Obamacare, we got Obamacare, and it worked less well."

Paul predicted that if the current plan proposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan were to be passed, the system would still not work as well as it should.

"There are some problems with healthcare that we need to address. The first one is a fundamental question that is asking who can do things better? The marketplace or government?

"I think if you look around you, the great success of America is the marketplace, capitalism. What happens in capitalism? One fundamental aspect of capitalism is that prices can go up and down freely. Prices can fluctuate based on supply and demand," he said. "There's almost none of this in healthcare. All the prices are fixed. Unless you let prices go up and down, the marketplace won't work."

Among the ideas Paul proposed for reform would be to get rid of the fee structure for Medicare.

"I would set a dollar limit (on medical procedures), and we'd have to debate the dollar amount," he said. "But under that I would have no set price. I'd let the people compete. There might be a new guy just out of residency, who might charge $75. And the person with a full office bursting with patients may charge $150 ... and the marketplace would figure it out."

According to Paul, "We (Congress) were trying to fix it. We voted 60 times to replace Obamacare. He (President Obama) vetoed it every time. And when we finally get a Republican president what do we do? We got weak-kneed and said we can't replace the whole thing, let's repeal parts of it and replace it with more government stuff. So one reason I opposed the current bill is because there was $115 billion for the insurance companies in it."

Paul said the debate over healthcare is continuing and there is still a chance to replace Obamacare.

"Conservatives want to get rid of the insurance regulations," he said. "We want to develop more of a marketplace. We're withholding our vote because we don't want to own something that will still be broken. It's a complicated issue and something that, quite frankly, won't be finalized in one fell swoop."

Another problem, according to Paul, is Congress wants to go for tax reform next.

"So we're going to have the same debate on getting tax reform, because they have to pass a budget, and many conservatives are not too happy about passing a budget that never balances."

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