A Pragmatic President Would Study Organ Market for Keys to Health Care Reform

Opinion Editorial

Laurence Verga

Forty seven years ago I was born with polcystic kidney disease, a rare genetic disease where cysts eat away at the fabric of my kidney. I am very fortunate my wife happens to have the same blood type as me, allowing her to give me one of her kidneys so that I can have a transplant performed. Considering Alonzo Mourning and Sean Elliot had transplants and played in the NBA afterwards; I know I will be able to handle the rigors of a Congressional schedule and represent the people of Virginia’s Fifth District with to the best of my abilities.

In fact, in spite of my kidney disease I have been a successful businessman for over two decades, overseeing over $100 million in sales and owning over a million square feet of property. Having this disease has certainly been difficult but it has brought out the best in me to ensure I excelled at business and in my personal life.  It also has lead me to found the Verga Project, which funds research at the University of Virginia to find a cure for polycystic kidney disease.

I hope to be an example for those with diseases that you don’t have to let it define you or slow you down from fulfilling your dreams. I also hope to bring more attention to how the American people can save the lives of thousands of their fellow citizens with organ disease and use those same principles to reform our health care system.

Every year, over 4,000 people die waiting to receive a donated organ on a 55,000 person waiting list. Even for those who receive a donated organ, the cost of a transplant runs around $100,000. The reason for these unacceptable realities: destructive government intervention.

Our job is to make sure the President hears loud and clear about this example of destructive government intervention before signing into law a far greater government intrusion into the world’s greatest health care system.

In 1984, the National Organ Transplant Act prohibited compensating people for their organs. This government-knows-best law is directly responsible for the organ shortage that has killed far too many Americans. If elected, the first bill I will introduce will be a repeal of this law.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career in the private sector, it’s that incentives matter. Just like every other market, people need an incentive to be organ donors.

Altruistic people like my wife have incentivizes to give their organs to close family and friends. Most folks are generally willing to give away their kidneys upon death as it does no harm to them while living. However, even if everyone did so, there wouldn’t be enough to fill the organ shortage.

To do so there needs to be an incentive for everyday citizens to become a live organ donor to someone he or she doesn’t know. For better or for worse, what is the most persuasive incentive for Americans?

Money of course.

Some will inevitably object that organ compensation would create a market for the wealthy by driving up the price of a transplant with an additional cost. However, this objection fails to recognize simple supply and demand economics.

Compensation will give people a significant incentive to be live organ donors, naturally resulting in a greater supply of organs. Not only will this increased supply likely abolish the current shortage by outpacing demand, but it will lead to lower transplant costs.

Secondly, with more organ transplants taking place, more medical students will foresee a greater opportunity to gain by becoming transplant specialists. The increased supply of transplant doctors naturally creates a greater competitive pressure amongst doctors to keep their prices attractive, resulting in a wider spectrum of prices for consumers.

Bottom Line: When government gets out of the way, the market can compete more freely and fully, leading to greater access, reduced costs, and more choice. Given this reality, why is President Obama trying to railroad an unpopular health care bill through Congress that will only increase the role of government?

If government’s destructive hand in the organ market isn’t enough evidence for the President, he needs to look no further than what his own federal branch actuary, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Studies (CMS), has said about his bill.

Obama has rightly argued that we must pass health care reform that will decrease the burdensome health care costs that have crippled American families and businesses. However, CMS’s analysis projects his bill will only make the problem worse, increasing premiums and total health care spending beyond what they would otherwise be under current law.

The President proudly thinks of himself as a pragmatist that pursues policies that are proven to work. It is time for him to take his own words seriously.

Two examples of successful reforms I will pursue if elected and the President should study are the expansion of health savings accounts (HSA’s) and institution of comprehensive tort reform. In Indiana the state’s total health care costs have reduced 11% by giving employees the option of enrolling in HAS’s; while in Mississippi malpractice insurance costs sunk by over 30% as a response to comprehensive tort reform.

These reforms are both successful because they take away power from government and give it to individuals. If President Obama really wishes to help the millions of Americans that believed in his pragmatic vision, then he will adopt this principle to reform both the organ market and our health system at large.

Mr. Verga is running for Congress as a Republican in Virginias 5th Congressional District. He may be reached via his website, http://www.vergaforcongress.com..

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