House Panel Debates Health Reform Cost Control Solutions
On Thursday, witnesses at a House Education and Labor Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee hearing discussed strategies to curb rising health care costs while extending health insurance to more U.S. residents, CQ HealthBeat reports. Health care reform approaches discussed at the hearing include a single-payer health care system; a "employee benefit cooperative" system in which small employers, employees and families band together to purchase coverage; a national health insurance exchange; Medicaid expansion; and changes to the current model of employer-based plans to make coverage more affordable.
David Himmelstein, a primary care physician and associate professor of medicine at Harvard University, advocated a single-payer system (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 4/23). Himmelstein said that he thinks a health reform modeled after the 2006 Massachusetts health insurance law "will fail" because it is "economically not viable." According to Himmelstein, the Massachusetts law has "no means of cost containment" because the state is "increasing coverage ... by buying additional insurance from (private insurers) on top of already high costs" (Wayne, CQ Today, 4/23). He added, "While reforms that maintain a major role for private insurers may be politically attractive, they are economically and medically nonsensical."
Subcommittee Chair Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) called the discussion a "dynamic interchange" and a starting point for addressing how to provide quality insurance to all U.S. residents. Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) said, "There is obviously a great deal of disagreement and diversity here... we've got a long way to go here" (CQ HealthBeat, 4/23).
The AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday examined the health care overhaul debate, including some of the contentious proposals being discussed and the likelihood for bipartisan support (Alonso-Zaldivar/Werner, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/23).
Advocates for Reform Coordinate Efforts
A coalition of consumer, labor, advocacy and patient organizations have been working together for the past four months to coordinate communication and grassroots efforts in order to ensure that health care overhaul takes place this year, CongressDaily reports. The group -- which calls itself the Winter Soldiers -- includes Families USA, Consumers Union, Service Employees International Union, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and AARP, according to Families USA spokesperson David Lemmon. Sources say that while the groups do not agree on all key issues, they are aligned enough to share and pool resources to increase their outreach and influence lawmakers. The informal coalition is a byproduct of various groups that meet regularly to try to achieve consensus on health care overhaul efforts (Edney, CongressDaily, 4/24).