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Empowering Healthcare Choice: The Triumphs of Deregulation

August 31, 2023

Americans are best off when they can make decisions for themselves—and this is particularly true when it comes to healthcare. That’s why cutting healthcare regulations to put patients first is one of the main tenets of the Goldwater Institute’s work advancing liberty. In a series of recent interviews on the DC EKG podcast that touched on issues like telehealth, the Right to Try, and artificial intelligence (AI), Goldwater Institute Senior Fellow Naomi Lopez discussed the the fight for greater liberty in healthcare in the face of new threats.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic had devastating consequences for billions of people across the nation and world, there was one silver lining: with Americans stuck at home, the government loosened some unnecessary regulations, removing barriers to different forms of healthcare. But now that the pandemic is over, the government is seeking to return to many of the regulations of the past.

Speaking with former Trump administration official Joe Grogan and Heritage Foundation Visiting Fellow Eric Ueland, Lopez argued that to do so would be a mistake. After all, Americans have already seen the benefits of a more deregulated healthcare system. For instance, millions of patients—more than ever before—are utilizing telehealth services, which allow them to access high-quality care using a computer, smartphone, or landline. One of telehealth’s primary advantages is the convenience it brings to patients, eliminating the need for physical travel and reducing waiting times. Telehealth services also promote early diagnosis and significantly lower costs for patients and providers. Access to telehealth services has become especially crucial for individuals residing in remote or underserved areas, and those who are simply too busy to visit a doctor in-person. That’s why laws like the one the Goldwater Institute passed in Arizona in 2021—the nation’s most comprehensive telehealth reform, making the state’s temporary COVID-era telehealth flexibilities permanent—are so important. This legislation permits out-of-state physicians to provide telehealth care to thousands of patients in the Grand Canyon State—transforming their quality of life as they know it.

The Goldwater Institute’s groundbreaking Right to Try law, which protects terminally ill patients’ right to access potentially lifesaving experimental treatments, stands as another example of the benefits of deregulating the healthcare industry. In the past, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) outdated and rigid regulatory approach had dire consequences, with many lives lost before Right to Try, which Goldwater passed in more than 40 states before enacting it at the federal level in 2018. “The Food and Drug Administration is incredibly slow. It’s a 1960s regulatory framework that hasn’t kept pace with today’s modern medical innovations,” Lopez said. Right to Try has effectively cut through the bureaucratic red tape that once hindered patients’ ability to explore treatment options, and it’s saving countless lives as pharmaceutical companies use Right to Try to treat entire groups of patients in promising new ways. Now terminally ill Americans can make the decision that is best for them without waiting on slow FDA approvals. And this landmark law is laying the groundwork for the next step: Goldwater’s Right to Try for Individualized Treatments (Right to Try 2.0), a reform that extends the Right to Try to personalized treatments that are tailor-made for each individual. Goldwater has already passed Right to Try 2.0 in Arizona and Nevada, with more states on the horizon.

The rise of AI has also been a significant concern within healthcare circles. In considering the integration of AI into the healthcare sector, Lopez argued that deregulation will continue to be the best path forward. Rather than fearing AI, we should recognize its potential to revolutionize healthcare for the better. In other words, the government should not stifle innovation. Instead, Lopez urged a departure from the suppression that has historically hindered many medical innovations in the U.S. Companies operating in the AI healthcare space are already motivated to self-regulate, driven by the heightened scrutiny AI technologies face from the public and the industry.

The heart of healthcare freedom lies in recognizing that individuals are best equipped to make decisions regarding their treatment journey. It’s this fundamental belief that propels the Goldwater Institute’s work deregulating America’s healthcare system—a stance aimed at fostering innovation and safeguarding individuals against the undue influence of unelected busybody bureaucrats.

Cameron Teel is a Ronald Reagan Fellow at the Goldwater Institute.



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