Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report Feature Highlights Recent Blog Entries
"Blog Watch" offers readers a roundup of health policy-related blog posts.
The blogosphere is buzzing about the GOP "alternative" health reform proposal from Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.), and Reps. Devin Nunes (Calif.) and Paul Ryan (Wis.). Known as the Patients' Choice Act (.pdf), it would create state-based private health insurance exchanges and provide U.S. residents tax credits to subsidize coverage premiums.
Yuval Levin of conservative stalwart The Corner calls the plan "the best comprehensive health care proposal Republicans have produced to date, and shows that at least some in the party understand the need to engage the issue with a grasp of the differences between underlying problems (like cost control) and symptoms of those problems (like access to coverage), and with an actual appreciation for economic incentives and pressures." Marguerite Higgins of the Heritage Foundation's The Foundry says the plan "features several important conservative principles for health care reform that would allow free-market solutions to take root in the broken U.S. health care system, and give patients more decision-making power with their health care dollars."
But Michael Cannon of the libertarian Cato@Liberty blog says he is "troubled" by aspects of the plan that are "self-contradictory." He writes, "On the one hand, it lists 'No Tax Increases' as a core concept. Do its authors not know that imposing price controls on health insurance premiums imposes a tax on healthier-than-average consumers? And where do they think the money for 'risk-adjustment' payments will come from? Heaven?"
The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn seems to agree, saying, "The details are pretty unappealing, except where there are none; and the whole thing is presented as the antithesis of big government when, in fact, it too would require at least some government intervention." Overall Cohn thinks the plan indicates good news for Democrats, concluding, "Passage of a bill seems ever more likely, to the point where potential opponents feel they must offer alternatives that embrace some of the same concepts."
The Washington Post's Ezra Klein examines the structure of the plan, calling it "the bastard child of the Massachusetts health reforms and the McCain campaign proposal." He also seems to think it's positive news for reformers, adding, "But it's still a step forward for the Republican Party. It's an admission that individuals can't go it alone. That the state has a large and important regulatory role to play. The business model of insurers is not simply broken but actively cruel. A Republican Party that accepts the principles of this plan is a Republican Party that is much likelier to accept the principles of Obama's eventual plan." He notes that GOP leadership was not involved in the proposal.
Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, announced Data.gov, a new Web site that will make "economic, health care, environmental and other government information available on a single Web site." Currently the data are spread among several different sites and formats;
Health Populi's Jane Sarasohn-Kahn reports that Milliman Medical Index is estimating that health costs for a family of four averages $16,771 in 2009;
- Harold Luft on the Health Affairs Blog offers a proposal to work around the shortcomings he sees in public plan options and a national insurance exchange. Health Affairs also posted an interview with Harvard health economist (and Obama adviser) David Cutler on health care costs and the recent agreement by industry groups to try to rein them in;
- The Center for American Progress Action Fund has a new paper that cites the CBO calculations to say that without health reform, premiums could rise 70% (after inflation) in the next nine years;
- As part of a series meant to highlight "excluded voices" on health reform, Columbia Journalism Review's Trudy Lieberman interviews professor Jonathan Oberlander about health information technology;
- John R. Graham of the State Policy Network Blog asks, "Do small businesses need a health insurance exchange" and answers it by saying it "wouldn't hurt," but wouldn't resolve the problem of small businesses getting hit with big premium increases; and
Bob Laszewski says labor unions' ads targeting Sen. Ron Wyden's (D-Ore.) proposal to tax employer health benefits are the first "Harry and Louise" ads of this reform cycle and are akin to "a dead horse head in his bed with the clear message he won't be the last if he and his colleagues don't tow the line."