It has been so much in the news lately, and I am frankly quite tired of President Obama appearing daily on morning news shows and almost weekly at press conferences and repeating the same generic, non-specific answers to questions about health care reform. I am disturbed that his administration wants to ram through legislation that affects over 15% of the US economy, but refuses to take the time to speak about specifics with the American people.
But I refuse to be just another naysayer. The truth is, health care costs are out of control. US industry finds it increasingly difficult to compete with other companies around the world because of the overwhelming costs of providing employer health care. These are issues that need to be addressed. As far as I can tell, there is only one proposed plan that I see that actually reflects these realities and also the reality that health care reform will not be cheap and must be paid for equitably somehow.
Senator Ron Wyden (D) from Oregon has been proposing for several years the version of health care reform that I believe I would support at this point in time. The “Healthy Americans Act” is actually the one shot at actual, bipartisan supported reform going on around Congress right now. And as usual, it is found in the Senate. Wyden has been working with Senator Bennett (R) from Utah on the legislation. Basically, the legislation would effectively eliminate employer provided health care benefits. But what it would do in turn is create incentives for Americans to purchase their own health insurance with their larger salaries (that would come from converting health care benefits into increased salaries for employees) and to look for cost-efficient plans by creating tax deductions for participating in cost-efficient programs. Although it hasn’t been covered as extensively in the media as other plans, some good articles on the plan can be found from the Wall Street Journal, NPR, this great article from Jacob Weisberg on Slate, and even the Huffington Post. Most of these articles indicate that Wyden’s plan has zero chance of passing, which is too bad, because the numbers that I have seen on it actually make sense. Of course, that is probably the problem on the Hill, it is far too logical to be taken seriously. Most people are caught up in their own rhetoric than to think logically that the solution to the health care crisis has to take into consideration what might actually work. If the goal is universal coverage, then this plan would get you there while also addressing the reality of out of control health care costs. That should be what matters.
The complete proposed bill, the “Healthy Americans Act”, (which is about 900 pages shorter than competing bills floating around Congress right now) can be found here. The Lewin Group’s Cost and Coverage Analysis Report for the proposed bill can be found here.
Look, I live in DC and basically have no voting rights, so there is no represenative/Senator for me to call to tell them to support this plan. But I will have to pay the costs of health care reform like the rest of you. So do me a favor, for my sake, call your Senator and tell them to support the Healthy Americans Act, because it is the only bill I have seen or heard about that will actually do more good than harm.