Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report Rounds Up Editorials, Opinions on Health Care Reform
Summaries of editorials and opinion pieces regarding health care reform appear below.
Charleston Daily Mail: Lawmakers and federal health officials "propose ... to extend coverage to nearly 50 million uninsured Americans and to regulate the private health insurance that 160 million Americans have," a Daily Mail editorial says, adding that "[d]etailed proposals are beginning to emerge from Capitol Hill, and all are on a grand scale." According to the editorial, a "great conversation is about to begin, and Americans should follow it with close attention to detail." It concludes, "This one is going to be big -- really big" (Charleston Daily Mail, 5/20).
Des Moines Register: "Health reform cannot come without tax reform," so as "Congress crafts legislation that could make significant changes to this country's health care system, changes to the tax code must be on the table," a Register editorial states. It continues that "no matter what Congress does to control costs, ... at the end of the day, getting 46 million uninsured people covered is going to take a steady stream of revenue." The editorial says, "Money uncollected by the government is the same as money spent," concluding that the U.S. "cannot finance health reform without deciding how much of the tab taxpayers will have to pay -- and the fairest way for them to pay it" (Des Moines Register, 5/21).
- Providence Journal: President Obama's recent meeting with health care industry group representatives, who pledged to reduce health care spending growth over 10 years, "was a fine photo-op," a Journal editorial states. According to the editorial, "America's history of health care reform suggests that the likelihood of doctors, hospitals, drugmakers and insurers voluntarily reducing their own revenue streams is rather small." It adds, "Also small is the likelihood of many of those folks who have insurance tolerating any cutbacks ... in their use of the latest expensive bells and whistles provided by the medical industry." The editorial notes, "Clearly, the road to controlling costs will not be a smooth one," but if the recent meeting "does produce savings with little pain, that would be a grand thing -- though very unlikely." It concludes, "If it's an amiable opening to hard talks ahead, that's fine. But there have to be hard talks," adding, "Let them commence" (Providence Journal, 5/21).
- Margaret Flowers, Baltimore Sun: "Health care must become the civil rights movement of our time," Flowers, co-chair of the Maryland chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, writes in a Sun opinion piece. According to Flowers, "By replacing today's wasteful, fragmented, for-profit private health insurance industry" with a single-payer system similar to Medicare, "we would save more than $400 billion annually, enough to assure comprehensive quality care to all" (Flowers, Baltimore Sun, 5/17).
- Catherine Arnst, BusinessWeek: "[T]here are only three ways to pay for universal coverage: Raise taxes, cut payments to medical providers or ration care," columnist Arnst writes in a BusinessWeek opinion piece. Arnst adds, "Is there a politician willing to have an honest discussion with the public about these tough choices?" She concludes that Obama must "educate the voters" on each of the options in order to gain support for his reform plans (Arnst, BusinessWeek, 5/20).
- Cokie Roberts/Steven Roberts, Contra Costa Times: In efforts to reform health care, Obama "has to mind two gaps: a treasury gap and a trust gap" both of which "could derail his ambitious plans to cover the 47 million U.S. residents who lack health insurance," syndicated columnists Cokie and Steven Roberts write in the Contra Costa Times. Considering the treasury gap, Obama "has to explain, honestly, how he's going to finance his reforms," they write. In regard to the trust gap, "Obama has to isolate the ideologues on both sides: the far left that really wants a government-run system, and the far right that really wants no change at all," according to the Robertses (Roberts/Roberts, Contra Costa Times, 5/16).
- Clive Crook, "Crookblog," Financial Times: "What matters" in efforts to overhaul health care "is whether the administration, the health care industry and the U.S. electorate are moving any closer to facing the hard choices that Obama is always telling the country he is willing to confront," columnist Crook writes in his Financial Times blog. "So far the answer is no," he continues. According to Crook, if insurance "is to remain predominantly employer-based, Obama's 'comprehensive health reform' is going to be a lot less comprehensive, and affordable, than it ought to be" (Crook, "Crookblog," Financial Times, 5/17).
- Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.), Providence Journal: "It is only with comprehensive health care reform that we will achieve substantive change that improves both our nation's health care system and our nation's health. Fixing our health care system is also critical to ensuring that the U.S. remains competitive globally and will prove vital to our long-term economic growth," James Langevin writes. Langevin also says that he is reintroducing the American Health Benefits Program Act, "a universal health care proposal designed to guarantee every American access to the same coverage as members of Congress" (Langevin, Providence Journal, 5/21).
- Joe Klein, Time Magazine: While there is "real optimism" that Congress will approve a universal health plan, the "process could run into the same two roadblocks that caused universal health insurance to fail in the past: the specter of 'socialized medicine' and the fear that the cost of the program will, like that of other entitlements, spiral out of control," Klein writes. He adds that a "real battle ... will be fought over what [health services are] covered and who decides" (Klein, Time magazine, 5/7).
- Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), U.S. News & World Report: If a government-run health plan ends up being less expensive than what most employers are paying now for workers' health benefits, many companies will drop coverage and workers will end up in the government-run plan, Gingrey writes. The government-run plan would "dominate the health care marketplace" and care providers "would be forced to accept the government's low reimbursement rates," he adds (Gingrey, U.S. News & World Report, 5/21).
- Len Burman, Washington Times: "The best option" for paying for health care without "sinking the economy" would be to "phase in a value-added tax" earmarked for health care, which essentially would add a sales tax to all goods and services at all stages in the supply chain, Burman, director of the Tax Policy Center and a fellow at the Urban Institute, writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. "The conventional wisdom is that a VAT would be political suicide," but "a VAT earmarked to pay for health care might fly," Burman writes. He concludes, "The worst thing we could do would be to create another expensive health care entitlement without figuring out how to pay for it" (Burman, Washington Times, 5/19).
- Stuart Butler, Washington Times: Addressing the tax exemption for employer-sponsored health insurance "in ways that would also help slow health costs for all of us is a bipartisan idea that can and should be part of the solution," Butler, vice president for domestic policy issues at the Heritage Foundation, writes in a Washington Times opinion piece (Butler, Washington Times, 5/21).
- Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Washington Times: The business community's role in health care reform "should be to ensure that reform adheres to key principles: First, cost and quality must be top priority; second, there must be a path to greater quality insurance coverage, but any new private sector resources must be devoted to expanding private insurance; and finally, every participant must have greater information and support than at present," Hatch writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. He concludes, "Support for the right kind of health reform will meet the dual goals of improving the health care system and preserving the engine of U.S. economic success" (Hatch, Washington Times, 5/17).