Conservatives seeking a model for their own brand of health reform will find their Massachusetts in Utah, where Gov. Jon Huntsman today signed four laws aimed at cutting costs without making wholesale changes in the system.
The idea is small businesses, individuals and those who have lost jobs but can't afford the COBRA payments needed to maintain their old care, will opt for a plan that promises to be one-third the cost.
This is achieved through higher deductibles, higher co-payments, wellness incentives, and exclusion of things like diabetes management otherwise mandated under state law.
H.B. 311, meanwhile, would require that employers offer some form of insurance to employees, which the state hopes will cut premiums by reducing cost-shifting. H.B. 165 is a healthIT bill, funding a pilot of "single-swipe" insurance technology like that now offered by Visa and A-Claim.
Finally there is S.B. 79, a sweeping bill aimed at making malpractice much harder to prove, with a higher standard of evidence and regulation of expert witnesses from out of state.
All this may prove useful in the near term. But it's an open question what happens to patients who exceed their NetCare coverage, what happens to those damaged by real malpractice, and whether this will actually curb inflation in the cost of care.
But at least conservative reform now has a model. That is a very good thing indeed, unless an experiment fails when it's applied to you.