The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee necessary health care to all of its citizens, and as former senator Daschle observes, Skeptics say we can't afford to cover everyone; the truth is that we can't afford not to because U.S. economic competitiveness is being impeded by the large uninsured population and fast-rising health costs. Daschle's book delineates the weaknesses of previous attempts at national health coverage, outlines the complex economic factors and medical issues affecting coverage and sets forth plans for change. Daschle proposes creating a Federal Health Board, similar to the Federal Reserve System, whose structure, functions and enforcement capability would be largely insulated from the politics and passion of the moment, in addition to a merging of employers' plans, Medicaid and Medicare with an expanded FEHBP (Federal Employee Health Benefits Program) that would cover everyone. There is no more important issue facing our country, Daschle asserts, than reform of our health-care system, and the book's health-care horror stories bring this immediacy home.Director Orzsag also has strong opinions on the need to rein in health care costs. You can watch a webcast of his recent presentation to the Center for Public Health, Stanford University here.
The Senate is proceeding full steam ahead on health care reform. Sen. Kennedy has created a team to work on his initiative. According to the Washington Post Sen. Hillary "Clinton (D-N.Y.) will lead "a committee working group" on insurance coverage, Kennedy announced, while Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) will oversee a subgroup on prevention and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) is heading up the quality task force." Modern Healthcare reports that
Key lawmakers met to discuss a path that would lead to a broad healthcare-reform bill, though discussions over process and jurisdiction trumped talks on the actual substance of such a bill, according to lawmakers who attended the meeting.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, called the confab, which included Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), “very positive,” adding that the groundwork being laid now will pay dividends early next year when lawmakers tackle the herculean task of reforming the healthcare system.
2009 is shaping up to be an interesting year.