Monday, September 14, 2009

What "robust options" really need to be in the health care plan

With Senator Max Baucus ready to release the health care package tomorrow, we will finally get to see what the "gang of six" have been able to compromise on. My guess is that, no matter who is happy or unhappy with the package, the bill will not bring true reform. Here's why.

Both the Dems and the GOP are focusing on outcomes in terms of ideology -- okay, maybe that's a bit of an overstatement, but how many times have you heard a progressive saying that there "MUST be a robust public option"? Or a conservative telling us that real reform will only come if true competition is insured. These are ideological outcomes, not solutions to problems. Ideology may be a way of getting to a solution, but rarely so in the hands of politicians.

So, in the interest of pointing out the real solutions we need, here is my list of "robust options" that need to be in the health care reform package:
  1. A guarantee that no one can be turned down for insurance coverage for a pre-existing condition or a lapse in coverage.
  2. A guarantee that a policy cannot be canceled just because you get sick -- no matter how sick you might be.
  3. A clear path to providing some sort of affordable coverage for the millions of Americans who currently cannot reasonably afford health care (you shouldn't have to choose between groceries and medical insurance).
  4. A clear path to reduce infant mortality in the US (we rank pretty low compared to other Western nations). You can make an argument that illegal aliens spike this number, but lots of other Western nations have poor and illegal populations, and they keep this number down; we should too.
  5. A clear plan for breaking up monopolies in insurance coverage. In lots of areas of the country, "choice' is between several plans from the same one or two companies, with little or no opportunity to find anything better. Whether we do this via a robust public option or increased competition, I don't much care -- as long as it gets done.
This is the short list... I could go on, but at a minimum this is what I want to see. Anything less will not address the health insurance crisis or the health care crisis that we face. Bandage or reconstructive surgery -- now is the time to choose.