NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 8, 2007

Americans are dissatisfied with the current health-care system in this country and have been for the past few decades, according to opinion polls.  But they are also wary of grand plans to change the system.  Unfortunately, politicians generally mistake dissatisfaction for a mandate to dump everything and start over, says Sarah Berk, executive director of Health Care America, a free-market advocacy group funded in part by pharmaceutical manufacturers.

The power-shift in Washington has produced a chorus of calls suggesting it's time for a government-controlled health-care system.

New House speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to give the federal government control over drug-pricing in Medicare.  What problem is she trying to fix?

  • Ninety percent of Medicare beneficiaries now have drug coverage and 80 percent of recipients are satisfied with their coverage.
  • Premiums are down, as are program costs; in fact, program costs dropped by 20 percent from last year's estimate, which will create a savings of $180 billion over 10 years for taxpayers.

The new Congress is right to make health care a top priority, but congressional leaders must resist the urge to diminish consumer choice by using a "single-payer" system that does not have widespread support once all the facts are known, says Berk.

The recent success of Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in creating a universal system using the private sector demonstrates that it is possible to reach bipartisan agreement on positive changes, says Berk:

  • By partnering with private insurance plans, patients on welfare in North Carolina benefited from an emphasis on disease management and preventive care, which meant patients had fewer complications and hospitalizations.
  • An initiative in Oregon that put 11,000 of its 85,000 plan members into disease management programs for diabetes, asthma and congestive heart failure achieved an estimated annual savings of $6 million.

Source: Sarah Berk, "Should Congress work toward universal health care? NO: Beware big changes in a system that doesn't need fixing," Charlotte Observer, January 8, 2007.


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