Ask your neighbors what they think about their health insurance. They’ll probably say it’s too expensive.

It is. “Obamacare” caused Louisiana’s insurance premiums to jump by more than 50 percent last year. Next year, they’ll go up by as much as 24 percent. The average family plan could soon take up roughly 50 percent of the average Louisianan’s income. And where’s this money going? Towards one-size-fits-all plans dictated by bureaucrats in Washington rather than Louisianians.

We need a new approach for health care reform.

Washington should stop focusing on universal health insurance, like “Obamacare,” and start focusing on improving health care. Putting an insurance card in everyone’s wallet does no good if it costs too much and gives you poor quality medical care. Yet health care’s quality won’t improve and its costs won’t drop unless Louisianians can choose the health care that works best for us.

The federal government is the single biggest obstacle to this goal. “Obamacare” restricts patients and providers with more than 11,000 pages of regulation. This strangles patients and innovative businesses in red tape without improving health care.

Look at 23AndMe, a genetics company that provides affordable, personalized feedback based on patients’ individual genetic codes. Services like this are the future of health care — they lead to customizable, individually tailored treatments.

But bureaucrats are standing in the way. The Food and Drug Administration recently forced 23AndMe to all but close its doors. This deprives patients of a revolutionary step forward in medical technology. Sadly, it isn’t the only example. Health care bureaucrats frequently prevent medical advancements from ever making it into doctors’ offices. They do so through regulations, mandates, and reams of red tape.

It’s the embodiment of the “Washington knows best” mentality. It keeps medicine in the twentieth century. As we’re seeing with “Obamacare,” it leads to artificially high costs, relatively stagnant quality, and fewer choices.

Thankfully, we know what happens when consumers are free to choose and entrepreneurs and small businesses are free to innovate.

Just look at cellphones, computers, televisions and other everyday products that get better and cheaper by the year. Imagine what would have happened if Washington passed a law that promised “universal cellphone coverage” and built a bureaucracy that mandated what cellphones did, how much they cost, and more.

Everyone knows this would never work. Yet that’s exactly what Washington is doing with health care. As long as politicians promise universal health insurance, we’ll be left with higher costs and fewer choices. It’s time for health care reforms that empower Louisianians, unshackle innovators, and deliver better health care.

If that doesn’t happen, then next year’s double-digit premium increases won’t be the last.

Phillip Joffrion

Louisiana state director, Americans for Prosperity

Baton Rouge