Few Americans are happy with the health reform bill that House lawmakers passed last month. Nor are they very excited about the bill that’s making its way to the Senate floor.
Virtually everyone agrees, though, that the structure of our health sector is outdated, inefficient and too costly. As a result, many people are rallying behind the Democrats’ effort, assuming that it’s better to do something than do nothing.
But both bills are likely to do more harm than good. They’re akin to a doctor telling a patient who needs a pacemaker that he’s better off instead getting heart bypass surgery. The operation would be costly, invasive and dangerous — and it wouldn’t address the patient’s real problem.
Similarly, the bills are incredibly expensive. The House bill would obligate taxpayers to spend $1.3 trillion over 10 years. Further, the bills threaten to disrupt the coverage of millions of Americans and drive medical costs up, not down as promised.
The problems in the U.S. health sector are best addressed with small-scale, targeted reforms, not major surgery. The House and Senate bills would only make the problems in our health sector worse.
A study by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services drives this point home.
The study found that the core House bill would "bend the cost curve,” as the president insists it must — but in the wrong direction. Health expenditures would actually be 2.1 percent higher in a decade if the bill were enacted. Millions of people who have private health insurance would lose their current coverage and be forced into the new government health insurance plan. And individuals and businesses who don’t comply with the plethora of new federal mandates would have to pay an estimated $182 billion in additional taxes and fines.
The American people are wary of having the government dominate our health sector. A recent poll from the Galen Institute found that the American people are strongly opposed to many of the key reforms that President Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid are pushing.
More than 70 percent of respondents expressed opposition to a legal requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. Nearly 60 percent oppose increasing taxes on the working and middle class in order to help cover the uninsured. And more than two-thirds are opposed to reducing health benefits for seniors on Medicare to finance reform. Yet all of these proposals are part of the House and Senate bills.
America’s health sector doesn’t need radical surgery. But that’s what the Democrats are offering.
Lawmakers need to ditch government-heavy reform proposals and focus on putting the needs of patients first. This means empowering individuals and families to take control of their health care decisions and leveraging the power of market competition to lower health costs for everyone.
Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a nonprofit research organization focusing on patient-centered solutions to health reform. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Oklahoman, December 2, 2009.