New York Times Editorial, Column Discuss Health Care Reform
Two "powerful reminders" -- a Medicare trustees report about the program's looming insolvency and a pledge from several health care industry groups to help slow health care spending -- illustrate to lawmakers the "critical need for them to pass the strongest possible reforms to bring down health costs and cover" uninsured U.S. residents, a New York Times editorial states. According to the editorial, the vow by industry groups is particularly concerning because it offers "vague and unenforceable" promises that might not materialize. The editorial continues, "Skeptics are right to be worried that health industry leaders are primarily trying to head off strong federal policies and regulations by making toothless pledges of voluntary action." The editorial concludes, "Congress needs to find some mechanism to force savings from the industry if its voluntary efforts fail to reduce costs as promised" (New York Times, 5/13).
The primary barrier to health care reform is "the matter of the missing $90 billion" between the $30 billion of President Obama's down payment on an overhaul accepted by Congress and the $120 billion projected annual cost of reform, columnist David Leonhardt writes in the Times. Although lawmakers have agreed that limiting tax deductions for employer-provided health insurance would be an appropriate way to fill the gap, Obama opposed the practice during his campaign and would be reluctant to go back on his word, Leonhardt writes. That leaves two ways to pay for reform: raising taxes or reducing health spending, according to Leonhardt. He writes that comparative effectiveness research is needed to "tell us how to reduce spending without damaging people's health," but its progress currently is being slowed by industry groups with competing interests. As a result, "tax increases are probably necessary" over the short term, even though they might not be enough to generate $90 billion, according to Leonhardt. Leonhardt continues that "the only way to have a sustainable universal health care system is to control costs." He concludes, "In an ideal world, Congress and Mr. Obama would find the $90 billion to cover all the uninsured now. But if they don't, ... reform is not an all-or-nothing proposition" (Leonhardt, New York Times, 5/13).