August is a hot month in the health reform debate, and the news can't wait until next week's Health Policy Matters. I have had several op-eds published over the last few days. Here is a special report with links below:
- In today's USA Today, I was asked to take an "opposing view" to the paper's editorial about healthy eating. Congress already has passed regressive taxes on tobacco and is considering taxes on soft drinks and snack foods. Now the federal government wants to police restaurant menus to make sure they include calorie counts. This will increase the cost of restaurant meals, deter creativity and innovation, and inject government further into our lives. Goodbye blue-plate special and hello litigation. This is another pointless and expensive federal proposal that will lead to cookie-cutter menus and will actually retard our incentive to think for ourselves. Congress should be focusing on an issue it can do something about — like the bloated waistline of the federal budget.
- In today's New York Times, I wrote an invited blog post about White House efforts to calm growing anxiety about its health reform plan, with aides saying the president could be open to compromise on the public plan option. The public plan has been a lightning rod for opposition to health reform because many people believe it will lead to a single-payer, government-run system. What the president miscalculated in putting health reform at the top of his change agenda is that the thing people cherish most about health care is security. Change scares them, as politicians across the land are suddenly seeing. The White House must remove the public plan option as the centerpiece of its reform in order to calm the growing anxiety and begin to have a more reasoned debate over meaningful health reform. It may be too late.
- I am also quoted in William McGurn's Wall Street Journal column where he writes about the theology of the health care debate. It turns out that the president has his own orthodoxies, McGurn writes. These may owe more to his liberalism than to his faith. But they help explain the tenor of the attacks on those who dare question them — and the growing prospects for a major defeat in Congress on the president’s signature issue. "President Obama says that both sides agree we need to lower costs, promote choice and provide coverage for every American," says Grace-Marie Turner. "But he never confronts the simple fact that the measures he's supporting achieve none of those goals. Instead of debating, the White House attacks anyone who raises a question."
- In my post for National Review Online's Critical Condition, I wrote that the president has little choice but to throttle back his plans, and the suggestion of his health-care czar, Nancy-Ann DeParle, that he would be willing to compromise on the "public plan", is yet another indication of a retreat. But Democrats will not easily let go of the public plan: Labor unions are hugely invested in its passage, and Democrats are relying on the unions' resources in activism and advertising to help pass the president's legislation. So if the White House does soften its demand that any health-reform plan must contain a strict public plan, it will have to answer to the Left that has, at least, so far, been very unwilling to compromise on this issue. It is very likely too late for the president to shift his stance on reform. The American people are reading the bill, even if members of Congress aren't, and they don't like what they see.
USA Today: ‘Pointless and expensive’
New York Times' Room for Debate: Abandon the Public Plan
The Wall Street Journal: The Health-Care Grail
National Review Online: Americans' Unprecedented Health-Care Anxiety
Health Policy Matters is a weekly newsletter containing summaries of timely and informative studies and articles on free-market health reform. It features a commentary by Grace-Marie Turner on the major developments and issues of the week as well as summaries of writings by participants in the Health Policy Consensus Group and other articles of interest from the health policy world, plus announcements of coming events. Health Policy Matters is published by the Galen Institute, a not-for-profit public policy organization specializing in information and education on health policy. For more information about the newsletter and our organization, please visit our website at www.galen.org.
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