RX: STOP THE RUSH
July 22, 2009
House and Senate leaders are pushing health care reform at breakneck speed, hoping to produce a bill for President Barack Obama to sign by the end of the year, perhaps as early as this fall. What's the rush? When did reforming the $2.5 trillion-a-year health care system become a sprint, asks the Chicago Tribune?
There are a lot of smart ways to improve the existing system and expand access without breaking the budget, says the Tribune.
Start with basic coverage for the poor:
- About 30 percent of the uninsured -- that's 13.1 million people -- earn less than the poverty level but don't qualify for Medicaid.
- Cover them first and then slowly expand up the economic ladder.
Change the tax treatment of health insurance to encourage more people to buy it:
- In 2007, President George W. Bush proposed giving families without employer coverage a $15,000 tax break to buy insurance in the private market.
- That would be fair -- employer-based coverage gets a tax break, and it would have allowed 3 million to 5 million people to move into the ranks of the insured.
- The proposal withered, but that's still a good way to start whittling down the uninsured.
Expand state-run risk pools for those with chronic illnesses:
- This would allow them to buy reasonably priced insurance.
- These patients aren't necessarily poor, but they often can't find insurance because of their medical conditions and they pile up enormous medical bills.
Don't repeat Massachusetts' mistakes:
- The Bay State expanded access before it tried to control costs.
- Now the bills are coming due, and the state is scrambling to fill budget holes blown open because of soaring health care costs and because the state underestimated the number of uninsured adults who would need subsidized coverage.
Source: Editorial, "Rx: Stop the rush," Chicago Tribune, July 21, 2009.
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