The Wyden-Bennett “Healthy Americans Act” really is the most sensible health-care reform bill out there right now. I don’t think health care reform is a hill worth dying on for conservatives (there are other, better hills to die on), but it is worth the effort to find a plan that will actually work, that is fiscally sound, and that still covers most, if not all, Americans. The “Healthy Americans Act” does all these things, and it’s worth setting aside ideology to achieve meaningful reform.
Yesterday, in the Washington Post, the Senators pushed their plan once again. It’s worth noting that right now the Wyden-Bennett proposal has more bipartisan support than H.R. 3200, the bill being pushed by many Democrats, including the bought-and-paid-for chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus. Not only that, Wyden-Bennett also does a better job, and is far more fiscally sound a proposal than H.R. 3200.
From the WaPo:
First, we allow all Americans to have the same kind of choices available to us as members of Congress. Today, more than half of American workers who are lucky enough to have employer-provided insurance have no choice of coverage. Members of Congress who enroll their families in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program often have more than 10 options. This means that if members of Congress aren’t happy with their family’s insurance plan in 2009 or insurers raise their rates, they can pick a better plan in 2010. Our plan would give the consumer the same leverage in the health-care marketplace by creating state-run insurance exchanges through which they can select plans, including their existing employer-sponsored plan.
Beyond giving Americans choices, our approach also ensures that all Americans will be able to keep that choice. We believe that at a time when millions of Americans are losing their jobs, members of Congress must be able to promise their constituents that “when you leave your job or your job leaves you, you can take your health care with you.” Our approach ensures seamless portability.
Our point is not that our framework is the only way to reform the system or to reach consensus. But our effort has shown that it is possible to put politics aside and reach agreement on reforms that would improve the lives of all Americans. Insisting on any particular fix is the enemy of good legislating. A package that will entirely please neither side, but on which both can agree, stands not only the strongest chance of passage but also the best chance of gaining acceptance from the American people.
Again, I’ve written a number of posts that present much more conservative proposals for health care reform, but this is not a hill worth dying on. Americans would benefit from a meaningful health care overhaul. A divorce of health care benefits from employment would increase social mobility, provide more individual investment in our health, and the reforms present in the Wyden-Bennett proposal would also ensure that people, regardless of pre-existing conditions or age, could still attain health benefits. It’s not perfect – even the bill’s authors say as much. It’s not ideologically bound to a purely market approach, nor is it the perfect option for many progressives. Yet, people as diverse in their politics as Ezra Klein, von from Obsidian Wings, and our own Mark Thompson have all come out in favor of the bill.
My three criteria for any health care reform are (1) the reform results in substantially greater coverage; (2) the reform lets individuals choose their own health care by making health care personal, rather than dependent on having a job; and (3) the reform doesn’t add to the deficit. Unlike the House Democrat bill, Wyden-Bennett accomplishes each of these objectives. Wyden-Bennett is estimated to result in 99% coverage. (That’s better coverage, bye the by, then even House Democrats claimthat HR 3200 would deliver.) Wyden-Bennett largely severs health care insurance from employment, while providing protections from abuse. And Wyden-Bennett has been preliminarily scored by the CBO as deficit neutral.
I know we’ve pushed this before, but as health care reform stumbles along through Congress, I think it’s important to start pointing out what better alternatives exist, and to keep pointing these out. Obstruction is fine and good if the only alternative is a really, absolutely horrible reform. H.R. 3200 may or may not be that horrible, but when an alternative as sensible as Wyden-Bennett exists, it really is worth paying attention to. If enough people are made aware of it, maybe it will begin to gain support. Sens. Wyden and Bennett don’t seem to be giving up, in any case.
Health care reform should not be viewed as merely a political battle – Obama’s “Waterloo.” There really is a fundamental problem with how health care is done in America. It is reflected in many of the current system’s problems, from abuses of rescission, to lack of coverage, to the lack of portability and social mobility that the current system creates. It certainly makes little sense in an increasingly global society. And it makes even less sense to speak in terms of whether or not people are content with the current system. Most people have a very poor understanding of the alternatives, and only sense the sort of predicament they are in when their sole coverage is through an employer.
At some point conservatives are going to have to admit that there is simply no political will to attempt a purely market-based solution, and progressives are going to need to begin accepting the fact that competition can really create a better, more efficient, and more consumer-friendly system.
Russell Arbon Fox on localism and health care.
Reihan Salam on pipedreams.
The New York Times editorial on health care reform.
Ezra Klein on the “truth” (you can’t handle the truth!) about the insurance industry.
Arnold Kling on “consumer exit” in the health care industry.
Michael Moynihan on Rush Limbaugh, health care, and Godwin’s law.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin on the long-term costs of the new entitlement.