In today's Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer takes great pains to paint a bleak picture of health care reform as "monstrous," "overregulated," and rife with "arbitrary bureaucratic inventions." The columnist's argument may be cogent and well-written, but it is wholly inaccurate.
Krauthammer describes a "better choice" for health reform as having three elements: tort reform, interstate purchasing and taxing employee benefits. All three elements are part of the current effort.
- President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of HHS to move forward with an initiative to give states and health systems the opportunity to apply for medical liability demonstration projects. Section 2531 of the House bill also includes a voluntary state incentive grants program to encourage states to develop alternatives to traditional malpractice litigation.
- Section 9001 of the Senate bill does impose a fee on high-cost health care plans. (A PDF of the Senate bill is available here.) To clarify: This is a fee on insurance companies that offer high-cost plans that drive up the cost of health care for all Americans, not a tax on individuals.
- Section 1333 of the Senate bill allows for interstate health care choice compacts. Coupled with insurance market reforms to ensure individuals are not discriminated against, this policy will expand health care choices to millions of Americans.
And while Mr. Krauthammer may try to label reform legislation as a package of programs linked only by "political expediency," the legislation actually is designed to take health care off the unsustainable path it is currently on by improving the health of all Americans and reducing costs for families, small businesses and the government. Some examples from the Senate bill:
- An independent Medicare Commission that would develop and submit proposals to Congress aimed at shoring up the long-term financial health of Medicare, slowing Medicare cost growth that is hurting seniors and the budget, and improving the quality of care delivered to all Medicare beneficiaries. (Section 3403)
- A program to ensure that uninsured individuals with pre-existing conditions can buy affordable health coverage. (Section 1101)
- New programs to expand the health care workforce so we can ensure there are more doctors and nurses in this country. (Sections 5102, 5201, 5202, 5203, 5204, 5205, 5206, 5207, 5309, 5310, 5311, 5312)
- New prevention and wellness programs such as tobacco cessation and programs to combat childhood obesity. (Sections 4001, 4002, 4003 and 4004, 4107, 4306)