Health Care Debate Heats Up Again

May 18, 09 Health Care Debate Heats Up Again
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Mr. Obama is determined to address the nation’s health care crisis, despite the terrible economic conditions and an already ambitious agenda that is meeting resistance from politicians in his own party.  The statistics are dire:  45 million Americans have no health care insurance, those who are insured must compete with costs rising 3.7 times faster than wages.  In addition to these systemic problems, there is a criminal lack of preventative care in America.  Mr. Obama proposed a health care plan that focuses on reducing wasteful spending, while improving the quality and efficiency of health care.  The plan lists four methods that would achieve this result, including investing in a paperless, electronic record-keeping system, improving access to prevention, lowering the costs of prescription drugs, and lowering the costs of catastrophic illnesses for employers and employees.  While these are noble goals that will benefit millions of Americans, the health care debate centers on who will pay and what role the government should play in managing health care costs.

In his plan, President Obama is only guaranteeing access to affordable health care coverage.  Recently, he coaxed the private health industry to shave 1.5% off the current health care growth rate, which would save $2 trillion dollars.  Besides tax cuts for families and businesses, Mr. Obama is advocating a national health care insurance clearinghouse.  This would allow uninsured Americans to enroll in the new public plan or a pre-approved private plan.  For an excellent analysis of the pros and cons of this approach, please see this article from The Health Care Blog.

The health care debate will rage throughout the summer.  According to an article at the Black Agenda Report, this “debate” is merely a piece of carefully managed stagecraft designed to exclude advocates of a single-payer system.  Others argue that asking private industry to voluntarily lower costs is akin to asking the fox to guard the hen house.  Worse, his plan appears to focus more on insured Americans mired in health care costs and does little to address the 45 million Americans with no coverage.  Although the recession remains the dominant topic on many Americans’ minds, the coming health care debate may be the most important domestic policy debate of the last twenty years.  It is critical that those charged with this responsibility get it right.  Unfortunately, relegating those advocating a policy position shared by a majority of Americans to the sidelines this early in the debate gives me little hope for true reform.

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