Opinion

The Great Debate

Is America ready for single payer healthcare?

diana-furchtgottroth–- 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. –-

President Barack Obama has repeatedly said “First of all, if you’ve got health insurance, you like your doctors, you like your plan, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan. Nobody is talking about taking that away from you.”

But America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, the bill under discussion in the House of Representatives, would result in the demise of private health insurance in America.

The 1,018-page bill would result in unprecedented regulation of America’s health sector. Among other provisions, it includes an 8 percent tax on employers who do not offer health insurance to employees, a mandate for everyone to have insurance, and requirements on whom insurers must cover, what benefits must be provided, the extent of variation in premiums, and how much profit is permitted—with excess profits returned to enrollees.

This would solidify government control of all health care in America, force most private insurance companies out of business, and lead to a single payer health system, like Britain or France.

Government negotiations in drug prices are dangerous

Peter Pitts — Peter J. Pitts is president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and a former FDA associate commissioner. The views expressed are his own. —

On Tuesday, House Democrats released the Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, their comprehensive health reform package. As expected, the proposal to create a brand new government insurance program designed to directly compete with private plans is getting a great deal of attention.

An important power of this “public option” has yet to receive much scrutiny, though. The secretary of Health and Human Services will be given the authority to “negotiate” prescription drug prices for the public option.

How will the U.S. pay for healthcare reform?

James Pethokoukis – James Pethokoukis is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own —

You have to admire the confidence. “Don’t bet against us,” said President Barack Obama on Monday about the chances for healthcare reform. “We are going to get it done.” Not only that, Obama repeated his pledge that his plan “will not add to the deficit over the next decade.”

Sunny optimism may reign at the White House, but things are a bit gloomier over on Capitol Hill. An August deadline to get a bill passed looks likely to be broken. More delays mean lost momentum and rising odds that debate over the bill could linger into the tumult of the 2010 congressional election year.

Obama healthcare playbook getting thin

James Pethokoukis – James Pethokoukis is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own —

The playbook is getting pretty thin for the Obama White House and congressional Democrats. One big idea they had to pay for healthcare reform was by capping itemized tax deductions for upper-income taxpayers. But the charities and nonprofits who benefit from these deductions screamed to Capitol Hill, so that approach was shelved. Time for Plan B.

Then congressional Democrats considered removing or capping the tax-advantaged status of job-based healthcare benefits. These untaxed benefits mean workers pay very little of their healthcare expenses out of their own pockets, which, in turn, means they aren’t motivated to act like true, cost-conscious consumers.

The myth of drug “re-importation”

Peter Pitts — Peter J. Pitts is president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and a former FDA associate commissioner. The views expressed are his own. –

On Thursday, as part of the Department of Homeland Security funding bill, the Senate voted to make us less secure by allowing Americans to purchase prescription drugs from Canada over the Internet. The measure is now headed to conference, where House and Senate lawmakers will hammer out a final piece of legislation.

When he introduced the measure to his fellow Senators, Louisiana Republican David Vitter described it as a “re-importation amendment.” And over the next few weeks, as lawmakers deliberate on this, you’re likely to hear that phrase quite a bit. Supporters of foreign drug importation believe that such wording makes this policy more palatable to the American public.

The healthcare disconnect

Darrell West– Darrell West is vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution and the author of Digital Medicine: Health Care in the Internet Era. The views expressed are his own. —

It is not the first time Washington has been disconnected from the general public, but recent discussions over healthcare reform reveal a D.C. establishment fixated on arguments not central to the general public.

The air waves are filled with clashing claims over the so-called public option whereby Medicare would be expanded to include more Americans. Proponents claim this is the best way to cover most Americans currently without coverage and drive down costs by creating competition for private insurance companies.

Healthcare reform and my expensive education in economics

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. –

America’s healthcare system is broken, but President Obama inspires little confidence with his fix.

Healthcare absorbs 18 percent of GDP—about 50 percent more than in other wealthy countries. Prices are too high and are a terrible burden on jobs creation.

To pay for vital programs, Congress must make tough choices

- Deborah Weinstein is the executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs. The opinions expressed are her own -

As the House and Senate Budget Committees begin work this week on their versions of the Congressional Budget Resolution, the usual suspects are lining up to oppose proposals that would pay for health care reform, reduce global warming, create more jobs and improve our education system. Beyond the expected Republican opposition, however, some key Democrats are also calling for changes that would seriously weaken Presidents Obama’s groundbreaking budget.

Although the chairs of the House and Senate Budget Committees are expected to craft resolutions that remain faithful to the President’s priorities, many of the revenue sources proposed by Obama are being called into question.  Further, the skittish-on-spending Blue Dog Democrats in the House and similarly inclined Senate Democrats are urging reductions in domestic appropriations, which pay for education, job training, housing, child care and child welfare services, public health, and other family and community services.

Liberals and conservatives on healthcare reform

stephen-davidson

– Stephen M. Davidson, a professor at Boston University’s School of Management, is author of “In Urgent Need of Reform: Saving the U.S. Healthcare System,” to be published later this year. The views expressed are his own. –

Stories about healthcare reform often contain opposing statements from liberals and conservatives. Liberals would use government; conservatives, a market in which private insurers would compete for subscribers. Liberals say a big public-sector role is needed to rein in costs and achieve universal coverage; conservatives say that approach would face opposition from most, if not all, Republicans.

Perhaps unwittingly, that kind of juxtaposition creates the impression that there are two equally viable paths to the three main goals of healthcare reform – financial access to care for all; reduction in the rate of increase of healthcare spending; and more reliable quality of care. But the notion that these are two paths to the same end is false. In fact, competition among private insurers will always produce large numbers of uninsured people –- now at 47 million and climbing — and always produce higher spending than necessary. Here’s why.

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