Health Reform Needs a Real Reality Check
By Grace-Marie Turner
President Obama has launched his "Heath Insurance Reform Reality Check," a website designed to clear up misconceptions about the health reform debate.
But, despite this and other efforts by the White House to appear forthright about current plans to overhaul our health system, there's still a significant gap between the president's rhetoric and the facts about his reform agenda.
Here are just three examples:
Rhetoric: The president has promised that his plan "will keep government out of health-care decisions, giving you the option to keep your insurance if you're happy with it."
Reality: The Lewin Group, a respected economics consulting firm, has estimated that up to 120 million people would lose their current coverage if the Obama plan were implemented, many involuntarily.
Rhetoric: The president insisted in a recent news conference that "the bill I sign must also slow the growth of health-care costs in the long run."
Reality: Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad asked Douglas Elmendorf, the director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, whether or not the bills before Congress would reduce health costs.
"No, Mr. Chairman," Elmendorf said, "the legislation significantly expands [health costs]."
Rhetoric: President Obama has traveled the country extolling the virtues of the Mayo Clinic and other integrated health systems, saying they offer "the highest quality care at costs well below the national norm" and should be a model for the nation.
Reality: The Mayo Clinic and 12 other top health-care-delivery outlets sent Congress a letter in July warning that plans to introduce a new government health insurance plan "will create a financial result that will be unsustainable for even the nation's most efficient, high quality providers, eventually driving them out of the market."
In other words, the president's plan could put our country's most celebrated medical care facilities out of business.
It's not surprising that the nation's governors are joining the chorus of public officials and citizens voicing serious concerns about health reform's costs and consequences. They fear it would increase state-level health costs at a time when coffers are running low due to the recession.
Undaunted by these facts, many Democrats still are demanding that the president stay the course and create a new government health-insurance program modeled on Medicare (a program which itself is set to go bankrupt in just a few years).
Yet a key minority of Democrats and virtually all Republicans strongly oppose such a "public plan" because they know it could put private insurers out of business, leaving Americans with only one "choice" -- government-run health insurance.
The president continues to claim, correctly, that both sides of the health reform debate agree that we need to lower costs, promote choice, and provide coverage for every American. Unfortunately, he never confronts the simple fact that the bills he's supporting achieve none of those goals.
It's the stubborn facts that are likely to doom his plans for health reform.
(Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a nonprofit research organization focused on market- based approaches to health reform.)
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