The Obstacle to Health Reform? Talking Points Memo quote says it all

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In an article by Brian Beutler concerning so-called Blue Dog Democrats who are worried about the potential of the so-called "public option" for government offered health insurance, Beutler hits the nail on the head when it comes to what truly is the biggest hurdle to health care reform:

my immediate read on all this is that the Senate--its rules and its political makeup--remains the biggest hurdle to health care reform.

A brief comparison of the U.S. with Canada

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Cato Institute recently highlighted an interesting May 17, 2009 Washington Post article that really puts certain stereotypes and conventional understanding of Canada into proper perspective.

Reports last week that the recession is draining Social Security and Medicare funds were just one more reminder that the United States needs to fix its finances. For inspiration, why not look to Canada? Long derided by American conservatives as "socialist" and praised by the left for its generous government spending, Canada is casting off those stereotypes. Over the past few years, while U.S. politicians presided over huge increases in spending and debt, the Canadian government tightened its belt, slashed tax rates and balanced budgets.

Let's look at the following:

Spending: Spending by all levels of the Canadian government peaked at 53 percent of the country's GDP in the early 1990s, then plunged to 40 percent in 2008. U.S. government spending has risen, reaching 39 percent of GDP in 2008. And with the stimulus package, that number is likely to jump even higher.

Deficits: Canada has balanced its budget every year since 1998 — not by raising taxes, but by cutting spending. The United States balanced its budget for four years in the late 1990s, but now deficits are so large that it's difficult to imagine that ever happening again.

For all the "states" rights folks who "don't want politicians in Washington" to be like politicians in Ottawa:
Federalism: While the U.S. government grew more centralized in recent decades, Canada's federal government ceded power. President Bush's education policies increased federal control over American schools; in Canada, K-12 education is left to the provinces.

Tide Turning or Public Relations Stunt : AMA now open to public option for health insurance

Thursday, July 2, 2009

CNN reported that the AMA's new President, Dr. J. James Rohack, is open to the idea of a government sponsored health insurance plan for Americans who don't have health insurance:

Dr. J. James Rohack told CNN that the AMA supports an “American model” that includes both “a private system and a public system, working together.”

In May, the AMA told a Senate committee it did not support a government-sponsored public health insurance option.

“The AMA does not believe that creating a public health insurance option … is the best way to expand health insurance coverage and lower costs across the health care system,” the organization wrote, explaining that a public insurance plan could lead to “an explosion of costs that would need to be absorbed by taxpayers.”

Rohack, who recently became AMA president, suggested Wednesday that the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program available to Congress members and other federal employees could be expanded as a public option. That would avoid having to create a new program from scratch, he said.

“If it’s good enough for Congress, why shouldn’t it be good enough for individuals who don’t have health insurance provided by their employers?” Rohack said.

Making the Congressional health insurance plan available for the public is a very good choice, one that I don't think many Americans would reject. The idea of a public and private system together is similar to Dr. Uwe Reinhardt's "parallel system" idea as described in his New York Times blog:
The objective of current health reform efforts should not be to abolish the employment-based system to which so many Americans feel attached, brittle and expensive as that system may be. Instead, the aim should be to develop a robust, parallel system of fully portable insurance that individuals or families can purchase on their own, in a properly regulated and organized market, with public subsidies where deemed necessary.

The AMA is a lobby, after all, concerned with its own self-interest. This statement by the new AMA president is, after all, only a statement. If they were to demonstrate their committment to supporting a public health insurance option in new Congressional testimony, and disavow their statements from just this past May, this will prove a genuine shift.

But if, on the other hand, when Obama's allies in Congress formally debate and start promoting legislation that makes the Congressional health plan available to all, the AMA starts dragging their feet and starts backtracking, it will be clear that today's rhetoric was just for show.

Let's remember that the AMA has fought against every single major health reform initiative since the time of FDR, so to agree with the notion of a public health insurance option is a big reversal. In my final analysis, I'm inclined to say this is just a ploy.

We'll see how this unfolds later this summer.