One lesson learned over the last several decades of health policy battles is that bi-partisan action is crucial to any successful policy initiative.
During the 2004 presidential campaign, exit polls showed that 70% of voters were ?very concerned? about health care costs and availability. President Bush made health reform a priority during the White House Conference on the Economy (Dec. 15-16), and Congress must follow up with action on health care in the coming session.
There were some lessons to be learned from the campaign debate about where there is common ground on health reform ideas that can serve as a basis for legislative action.
During the campaign, both Sen. Kerry and President Bush proposed offering refundable tax credits for health insurance, both saw the need for new group purchasing pool options for individuals and businesses, and both encouraged greater adoption of information technologies in the health sector. These are good starting points for action.
The bottom line: To reduce the number of uninsured, consumers need direct subsidies to purchase coverage and more options in how they obtain health insurance.
Based upon proposals offered during the campaign, here is our top ten list of likely legislative initiatives impacting health care:
- Providing refundable, advanceable tax credits for the uninsured. (This includes allowing the credits to be used to create HSAs, if recipients choose this option.)
- Creating an above-the-line deduction of premiums for HSA-qualified health insurance
- Providing a $200/individual, $500/family rebate to small firms to set up HSA accounts for their workers
- Providing a mechanism for new purchasing pools to be created for small businesses and individuals
- Allowing cross-state purchasing of health insurance
- Providing new funding to sign up those who are eligible but not enrolled in Medicaid and SCHIP ? and beginning to reform Medicaid in the process
- Promoting health care deregulation, including removing the moratorium on specialty hospitals and lifting the ban on private contracting in Medicare
- Enacting medical liability reform
- Facilitating adoption of information technologies
- Accelerating organized care management of patients with chronic diseases and major acute incidents and promotion of prevention programs for killers like diabetes and obesity.
Health care clearly will be advanced by President Bush as part of the ?ownership society? he is cultivating to give consumers more tools to create a properly functioning market in the health sector that will increase choice and reduce costs. And implementation of the new Medicare law, with more choices for seniors, will be a top priority and a big challenge in the coming year.
In the private sector, the growing movement toward consumer-directed health care will certainly accelerate as companies and individuals investigate new options to engage patients as partners rather than adversaries in managing health care costs.