Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wyden-Bennett Redux

David Leonhardt of the New York Times, makes the case, for the umpteenth time, for the Wyden-Bennett idea of reforming healthcare by giving everyone, not just those who are currently uninsured, access to affordable health insurance options. This point has been made so often, including by me, that I hesitate to again point it out.

But perhaps more usefully, Leonhardt also explains why the current proposal for reform is so weak that, in practice, it would amount to no change whatsoever for the vast majority of Americans. Those who currently have (or are eligible to access) insurance through their employer, or through a government program such as Medicaid, would be ineligible to join the public option. The public option plan is designed to protect the status quo, not eliminate it.

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Fortunately, it's possble to fundamentally change the way the health insurance industry works -- so that it works more like other kinds of insurance -- without instituting a single-payer plan. You just need to create incentives so that people can choose affordable, individual-market health insurance plans through a regulated, but free, marketplace. This would force insurers to actually compete against each for individual consumers, as opposed to competing for large-group business. Unfortunately, all such proposals have been rejected outright as "too radical" by the defenders of the status quo, including the president and most Republicans.

That's why I oppose the current proposals on the table -- not because I oppose reform but because I'm for it. I'm hoping these lame reform ideas go down in flames because if they do, it's possible (unlikely, but possible) that in the near future the administration will take a different tack and, who knows, maybe propose actual change.

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