Editorials, Opinion Piece Discuss Issues Related to Health Care Overhaul
Several editorials and an opinion piece on Tuesday addressed health care reform. Summaries appear below.
New York Times: Even with tighter regulation of health care costs promised on Monday by private insurers, Congress still "should include a public plan option" in reform efforts, a Times editorial states. According to the editorial, "Private plans have done a poor job at restraining premium increases; they mostly pass rising medical costs on to the subscriber." The editorial continues, "A good dose of competition from a public plan with potentially lower administrative costs and no need to generate profits might be the right competitive medicine to improve their performance." The editorial concludes, "It should be possible to design a system in which public and private plans could compete without destroying the private coverage that most Americans have and for the most part want to keep. The question is whether Republicans in Congress are willing to try" (New York Times, 5/12).
Wall Street Journal: When private insurers agreed to try to reduce health care costs by $2 trillion in order to ensure they have input on reform efforts, they must have known they were making a "Faustian bargain that in time will result in price controls and restrictions on care," a Journal editorial states. The "implicit assumption" in the pledge made by private insurers "seems to be that the private companies will do the price controlling so the government won't have to do it for them," according to the editorial. However, the editorial continues that "when the savings prove illusory, ... the feds will step in" and use "brute force" to ensure savings, resulting in "price controls and waiting lines for rationed services." According to the editorial, "To win a false reprieve for themselves and give cost cover to the politicians," the private insurers are offering to make cuts themselves by restricting care practices and services. The editorial states, "By that point, most patients will have no choice but to assent, since most of them will be in one government program or another" (Wall Street Journal, 5/12).
- Washington Post: "[P]ledges of cooperation" from members of a coalition of interest groups -- which include certain private insurers -- are "a positive sign for health care reform," but President Obama should not "take the savings to the bank just yet," a Post editorial states. According to the editorial, "None of the interest groups signed up for a specific number; no one is saying who will sacrifice what, or how much." The editorial states, "There is a danger that the administration and Congress alike will be tempted to 'pay for' actual government expenditures with presumed but unspecified savings." The editorial states that "the president will have to reaffirm his commitment to pay fully ... and get to that goal without gimmicks" (Washington Post, 5/12).
A public option under a health care overhaul plan would "redistribute physician income as a way to subsidize an expansion of government control," Scott Gottlieb, former official at CMS, fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and practicing internist, writes in a Journal opinion piece. As a result, "Doctors will consolidate into larger practices to spread overhead costs, and they'll cram more patients into tight schedules to make up in volume what's lost in margin," according to Gottlieb. He continues, "Right or wrong, more physicians will close their practices to new patients, especially patients carrying lower paying insurance, such as Medicaid." Gottlieb writes that Obama instead should "fix the payment system to align incentives with improved care." According to Gottlieb, "There are plenty of alternatives" to the public option that will expand coverage and lower costs. He concludes, "More government control of doctors and their reimbursement schemes will only create more problems" for the health care system (Gottlieb, Wall Street Journal, 5/12).