Republican Plan for Health Care Reform Has Long Way to Go
"There is always an easy solution to every human problem - neat, plausible, and wrong," H.L. Mencken wrote in 1917.
It applies nicely to the simple, short solutions Republicans are offering to America's health-care problems.
Take tort reform. President Obama -pointed out last week in his discussion with House Republicans in Baltimore that such a change would reduce costs by no more than 2 percent.
Texas implemented that plan in 2003, and since then the percentage of people without insurance has increased, the cost of health insurance has doubled, and the cost of health care (measured by per-patient Medicare reimbursements) has increased at nearly double the national average.
Texas tort reform did reduce malpractice insurance premiums and attracted subspecialists back into the state. But needless (and expensive) tests continue to increase in spite of that. Tort reform is a Republican favorite but remains unproven.
The pre-existing-conditions clause that Republicans propose leaves too many loopholes for insurance companies to exploit, and the interstate insurance plan has no requirement for basic coverage, no protection from companies that would locate in states with lax laws to hide from states with more stringent regulations, and no cost controls.
One need not guess at what a GOP health-care reform would look like. They submitted a 230-page bill to Congress in November that contains phrases such as, "This policy may be less expensive than others because it is not subject to all of the insurance laws and regulations." And, "Additionally, this policy is not subject to all of the consumer protections laws or regulations on rate changes." (HR 3962 substitute, page 130.) They can't be serious.
Health care is too complex to be easily solved. The U.S. spent more than $2.5 trillion on medical care last year, which represents one-sixth of our economy and is expected grow to one-third in the next 10 years.
The average family insurance policy now costs $13,375 and will more than double by 2020, while half of Americans will lose their coverage. Medical bills are the No. 1 cause of personal bankruptcy. And shockingly, 78 percent of those filing for bankruptcy in 2007 had medical insurance at the start of their illness.
Companies big and small are rethinking health insurance for their employees. Those that still offer it are daunted by the soaring costs and are cutting back, either by increasing co-pays or dropping coverage altogether.
This country spends more than $8,000 per person for health care, twice what any other country does, putting us at a disadvantage in world trade. And for all of that money, we have some of the worst outcomes in the developed world. The current system is simply unsustainable.
As we face these issues, we find Republicans simply stalling progress and desperate to prevent the president from succeeding - for no better reason than they see it in their interest that he fail. They realize that if this works, Democrats will get the credit, as we did for Social Security and Medicare. And we should; we're the ones fighting for improvement.
Last week, President Obama told Republicans straight out that he's interested in hearing their ideas. But he emphasized that it's important to have them checked by doctors and nurses as well as economists. The choice before us is whether to let the system fail and pick up the pieces, or take control and remake it into the health-care system we need, can afford and deserve.
No one thinks that the current bills are a panacea. They both have flaws and fail to achieve many of the goals we've set. Still, they are a starting point. No major initiative is ever perfected in the first pass; it takes years of study, experience and adjustments to reach our targets. We are way behind in this effort and have no time to lose.
It's up to us to tell our representatives that we want comprehensive health-care reform and we want it now.
Jim Heim is chairman of the Moore County Democratic Party. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story