Michael, I'd like to thank you for laying out your plan to fix healthcare. There has not been enough of that from reform opponents. The consequences of your proposals, however, might not be clear to all of our readers, so let's take a closer look at them.
The Cato-Cannon Plan
* By allowing insurers to sell plans across state lines, you would create a race to the bottom that would gut state-level consumer protections, as I argued Wednesday.
* By eliminating Medicare and substituting vouchers for private insurance, you would leave our seniors vulnerable to medical bankruptcy and destroy their well-earned healthcare security.
* By ending all state licensing and monitoring of physicians, as your economist friend Shirley Svorny suggests, not only qualified nurses but also any quack with a scalpel and some drugs would be able to set up a shingle, call himself a doctor and start cutting.
If this is what health reform opponents are selling, America is not going to buy it. On the contrary, government can and should make the healthcare and insurance industries live by a fair set of rules. And that is what health reform is all about.
Our readers can see exactly what the Obama plan means for them right here. But for your sake, Michael, I'll lay out a few key points:
First and foremost, under the Obama plan, the words "preexisting condition" would be a relic. No one could be denied coverage options when they get sick or because they change jobs.
Small businesses and individuals who cannot afford insurance in today's market could pool their resources and bargaining power to get better deals from the insurance companies. (See U.S. PIRG’s report on how high healthcare costs are crushing America's small businesses.) To make sure that no one single company could dominate the coverage options in any state, a publicly sponsored health insurance plan would be offered.
Americans with insurance from larger employers could stay in their current plan, but with one key improvement: The plan would have to be affordable or the employer would have to help pay for the cost of insurance from a new health insurance exchange.
In terms of cost-containment, health reform could actually save consumers, businesses and the government trillions of dollars over the next 10 years by injecting competition into the insurance market with some form of public plan; encouraging preventive care; preserving Medicare by keeping the same benefits but demanding that providers and hospitals cut out the one out of three healthcare dollars that the Congressional Budge Office says don't improve health outcomes; and placing a tax on insurers that offer the most expensive, gold-plated policies.
The right combination of these policies not only can trim the federal deficit but also reduce overall national healthcare costs and save money for families (see this report from U.S. PIRG for more details). The Bipartisan Policy Center, the Commonwealth Fund and CEOs for Health Reform have all come to a similar conclusion.
So let's allow our readers to decide. Which plan do they prefer: yours, Michael, or Obama's?
Larry McNeely is the healthcare reform advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.