Sunday, February 28, 2010

Health Care Reform: After the Summit Meeting, February 25, 2010

by Dr. Suzanne S. Taylor
Adjunct Professor

The question remains will the Democrats be able to pass a health care reform bill without Republican support. The Republicans made it clear they wanted to start anew and in increments even though there were some issues of agreement discussed. The Democrats appeared convinced that time is of the essence and reform is essential. The kind of reform desired became clearer after the 7 hours of debate. The New York Times Editorial of Friday, February 26, 2010 is an excellent statement of where the impetus for reform is now and concurs that the Senate and House must act on a complete bill not just some minor improvements. The White House issued an 11 page summary of their proposal the day before the debate. It is possible there will be some further changes as Obama made it clear that the special interest aspects of the original Senate bill will be withdrawn in a response to John McCain's criticism. Medical malpractice limits may also be included, along with measures that will reduce medical errors, improve communication, provide transparency, and allow prevention with wellness programs. Nonetheless Obama indicated he wanted the bill by spring break or at least by June.

In the end some will pay more but premiums for all will become less than they would have become with the status quo. More government expenditures do have to be paid for somehow and yet much of the bill's reforms will be cost effective. The proposed Democratic provisions will cover over 30 million uninsured now as opposed to the Republicans coverage of only 3 million uninsured. Clearly reform is politics. Almost 20 years after the Clinton reform proposals the Democrats are again in position to effect positive change. Hopefully, the American public will no longer be scared by the false rhetoric about government control. After all as Sen. Harkin pointed out the government controls food, drugs, many motor vehicle laws and numerous other aspects of our lives. Why isn't every American entitled to health care as almost every other citizen of other countries is? Having the best care only for those who can afford it should not be the American form of democracy.

The issue of health care has now become Obama's Bill and his mastery of moderating the debate demonstrated his superb understanding of the extreme complexity of reform. Praise from the liberal news media has been extensive in support of the need for health care reform. But I am sure there are more negative news stories in the Republican forums of those likely to be taxed more. It is likely that the succeeding deliberations of congress will not only be tense this spring, but extremely difficult. It will be helpful to continue transparency such as became evident on C-Span and CNN.

The struggle for universal health care continues. Those of us who can should speak up to their legislators and colleagues. Doing nothing is not acceptable or helpful. As it is coverage for employee health care is primarily through employment and is strongest in the government sector. In Rhode Island state employees have lost future retiree health care coverage and this also is happening to new hires in other state and local government jobs. Instead of eliminating coverage it is often being reduced and made more expensive. In both the private and public sector employers have switched to high deductible insurance or what covers catastrophic expenses only. The employee may, if they have the money, self insure in a tax deductible way, with a Health Savings Account or if lucky a Health Reserve Account, partially funded by the employer. Employees are dependent on the will of their employer, while the old, the young, the disabled, unemployed, and self employed are dependent on the largess of the government for Medicare, Medicaid, and Children's Health Insurance (CHIP) among other programs.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi has vowed to work with the Senate to achieve Health Care Reform that will be in her words: "Affordable, Acceptable and Accessible."

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for a positive piece about the need for health care reform. I simply cannot understand when or why health care was taken over by private insurers to be managed for profit. It wasn't that way when I was young and it shouldn't be that way now. I would like to see a greater focus on wellness so that less people will get sick hopefully. I think, unfortunately, that some people who insist on smoking, excessively drinking, not exercising, and overeating should pay higher premiums. I know this is draconian, but there should be greater incentives to get these folks to live a more healthy lifestyle and if it hits them in the pocketbook, well, that might just be the incentive needed. And, I realize that in spite of doing all the right things for oneself, you can still get cancer, heart disease, etc., but at least a person can try.

    Unfortunately, the tea baggers have been getting all the press attention and their quest to do away with all government, without a thorough explanation of what they really mean, leaves the rest of us wondering. The press should do more to vet these people, who is backing them, and what they really want.

    Finally, the same arguments being used now were used against Social Security and Medicare. History is a great teacher.