Opinion

The Great Debate

The challenge of health insurance reform

Diana Furchtgott-Roth–Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. The views expressed are her own. –

Today President Obama submits his budget outline to Congress, and, with it, a $634 billion fund for health care drawn from higher individual and small business taxes and lower reimbursements to medical providers.

Reform of our health care system is long overdue.  If you’re unemployed, or work for a small business that offers no health plan, or someone in your family has an existing illness known as a “pre-existing condition,” your main concern might be how to get health insurance.

As Obama said on Tuesday night in his address to the nation, “We can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold.”  But setting up a $643 billion fund and raising taxes in the middle of a recession isn’t necessarily affordable either.

In testimony yesterday before the Senate Committee on Finance, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf presented options for controlling health care costs.  He warned that “reducing or slowing spending over the long term would probably require decreasing the pace of adopting new treatments and procedures and limiting the breadth of their application.”  That’s rationing by another name, not a comfortable concept to Americans. (To read the testimony in pdf format, click here.)

Uncle Sam pays for middle-class health care

 Diana Furchtgott-Roth– Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. –

On January 29, the U.S. Senate passed the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), originally enacted in 1997 as an addition to Medicaid. It would have expired on March 31, potentially leaving over 7 million children without health insurance.

The bill passed 66 votes to 32, with several Republicans joining Democrats to pass the bill. The Republican leadership wanted to expand SCHIP spending by $5 billion over five years, an annual increase of 20 percent. In contrast, congressional Democrats succeeded in increasing SCHIP by $32 to $39 billion over five years, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office, almost tripling the program by 2013.

Health care degree leads to higher earnings

diana-furchtgott-roth_great_debate– Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.  The opinions expressed are her own. —

The economic outlook is bleak. Unemployment is rising.  Credit markets are dysfunctional.  Students are worried about job prospects, for good reason.

If you’re a young person choosing a career path, forget banking, forget autos, and forget Wall Street.  A new study coming out from the Hudson Institute in January, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, shows that enrolling in a community college and earning a two-year degree or certificate in a health-related profession—the only field that showed significant job gains in November, and the one with the most jobs openings—can open a pathway to higher earnings.

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