Mandates or Incentives?

While Washington waits for President Bush to present his health policy agenda next week, two leading Senate Democrats this week explained their plans for providing universal access to health care — both involving government-imposed mandates.

Senator Ted Kennedy, in a National Press Club speech on Tuesday, followed up on his promise to explain how he would achieve universal coverage — by mandating that every business with five or more employees provide health insurance to its workers.

Employers would have to pay at least 75% of the premium for coverage that looks like the standard Blue Cross Blue Shield plan offered to members of Congress and federal employees. The cost of health insurance would be progressive, with larger companies and wealthier people paying more.

“For decades, we have required employers to contribute to Social Security and Medicare. We require them to pay a minimum wage and to contribute to unemployment insurance. Now is the time to say that they also have an obligation to contribute to the cost of health insurance for their workers,” Kennedy said.

Let’s see: Government would dictate the cost and form of health insurance, with businesses and workers footing the bill. Let’s get our friend Herman Cain, formerly of Godfather’s Pizza, back here to explain a few things to Sen. Kennedy – as he did so effectively to former President Clinton in 1994.

Then on Thursday, Senator John Breaux told the U.S. Conference of Mayors that he would instead institute a mandate that every individual obtain health insurance.

?For the first time, all Americans will be responsible and held accountable for purchasing a basic level of health insurance,? Breaux wrote in The Wall Street Journal. ?All Americans will have, at a minimum, a basic insurance package, defined by the federal government and similar to the standard benefit packages available to federal employees. Lower income Americans will have their health care costs subsidized by the federal government.?

President Bush can be expected to counter these heavy-handed approaches next week with a system that would use incentives rather than mandates to encourage millions more Americans to obtain health insurance.

This will be a good test. Government dictates, mandates, and control vs. individual freedom and new incentives for a consumer driven market.

To show how much emphasis the White House is putting on health care, the Associated Press reported this week that the first speech the president will give after his State of the Union on Tuesday night will be one detailing his Medicare proposals the next day in the Midwest.

The White House is buoyed by a new Wall Street Journal – Harris poll showing that, for the first time, Americans trust Republicans and Democrats equally to address Medicare’s problems. This is a huge shift in the trust factor toward Republicans.

There’s not a moment to waste in taking action as Americans’ frustrations with the health care system are very real. But they want solutions that will work and don’t frighten them – as mandates surely would.

Grace-Marie Turner

SHARE THIS ARTICLE

About the author

While Washington waits for President Bush to present his health policy agenda next week, two leading Senate Democrats this week explained their plans for providing universal access to health care — both involving government-imposed mandates.

Senator Ted Kennedy, in a National Press Club speech on Tuesday, followed up on his promise to explain how he would achieve universal coverage — by mandating that every business with five or more employees provide health insurance to its workers.

Employers would have to pay at least 75% of the premium for coverage that looks like the standard Blue Cross Blue Shield plan offered to members of Congress and federal employees. The cost of health insurance would be progressive, with larger companies and wealthier people paying more.

“For decades, we have required employers to contribute to Social Security and Medicare. We require them to pay a minimum wage and to contribute to unemployment insurance. Now is the time to say that they also have an obligation to contribute to the cost of health insurance for their workers,” Kennedy said.

Let’s see: Government would dictate the cost and form of health insurance, with businesses and workers footing the bill. Let’s get our friend Herman Cain, formerly of Godfather’s Pizza, back here to explain a few things to Sen. Kennedy – as he did so effectively to former President Clinton in 1994.

Then on Thursday, Senator John Breaux told the U.S. Conference of Mayors that he would instead institute a mandate that every individual obtain health insurance.

?For the first time, all Americans will be responsible and held accountable for purchasing a basic level of health insurance,? Breaux wrote in The Wall Street Journal. ?All Americans will have, at a minimum, a basic insurance package, defined by the federal government and similar to the standard benefit packages available to federal employees. Lower income Americans will have their health care costs subsidized by the federal government.?

President Bush can be expected to counter these heavy-handed approaches next week with a system that would use incentives rather than mandates to encourage millions more Americans to obtain health insurance.

This will be a good test. Government dictates, mandates, and control vs. individual freedom and new incentives for a consumer driven market.

To show how much emphasis the White House is putting on health care, the Associated Press reported this week that the first speech the president will give after his State of the Union on Tuesday night will be one detailing his Medicare proposals the next day in the Midwest.

The White House is buoyed by a new Wall Street Journal – Harris poll showing that, for the first time, Americans trust Republicans and Democrats equally to address Medicare’s problems. This is a huge shift in the trust factor toward Republicans.

There’s not a moment to waste in taking action as Americans’ frustrations with the health care system are very real. But they want solutions that will work and don’t frighten them – as mandates surely would.

Grace-Marie Turner

SHARE THIS ARTICLE

About the author