Opinion

The Great Debate

Peddling damaged goods

steffie-himmelstein-combo– Dr. Steffie Woolhandler and Dr. David Himmelstein are both associate professors of medicine at Harvard Medical School and primary care doctors at Cambridge Hospital. They co-founded Physicians for a National Health Program. –

Once they’re finished mandating that we all buy private health insurance, Congress can move on to requiring Americans to purchase other defective products. A Ford Pinto in every garage? Lead-painted toys for every child? Melamine-laced chow for every puppy?

Private health insurance doesn’t work. Even middle class families with supposedly good coverage are just one serious illness away from financial ruin. In a study carried out with colleagues from Harvard Law School and Ohio University we found that medical bills and illness contributed to 62 percent of all personal bankruptcies in 2007 – a 50 percent increase since 2001. Strikingly, three quarters of the medically bankrupt had insurance – at least when they first got sick.

In case after case, the insurance families bought in good faith failed them when they needed it most. Some were bankrupted by co-payments, deductibles, and loopholes that allowed their insurer to deny coverage. Others got too sick to work, leaving them unemployed and uninsured.

Now Congress seems poised to fulfill insurance executives’ prayers; make failure to buy their faulty product a federal offense. We’ve seen this brave new world in Massachusetts. Here, beating your wife, communicating a terrorist threat and being uninsured all carry $1000 fines. Our law has halved the state’s already low uninsurance rate – mostly by expanding Medicaid and similar programs at great public expense.

Healthcare reforms warnings from France and Canada

healthcare-combo– Brian Lee Crowley is the founding president of Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), a public policy think tank in Canada (pictured left) and Valentin Petkantchin is director of research at the Paris-and Brussels-based Institut économique Molinari. The views expressed are their own. –

President Barack Obama’s package of heathcare reforms – mandatory health insurance, public health option and increased federal government financing – is being sold as preserving independent high quality care and choice for patients while keeping down costs. Taxpayers and patients in both Canada and France know better.

Unfortunately, our experience is that once the government gets its nose in the healthcare tent, not only is spending not contained, but health care professionals lose their freedom to practice. Left with few choices, patients face shortages and waiting lists.

Fixing health care

morici– Peter Morici is a professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland School, and the former Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission. The views expressed are his own. –

American health care is broken.

At 16 percent, the United States spends a much larger share of GDP on health care than Western European economies. Yet the United States has about 45 million uninsured, while its peers do not.

Many Americans between 50 and 65 cling to jobs they don’t want simply to keep health benefits. Their European cohorts are not so constrained.

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.

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