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Cost Knowledge Would Spur Health Care Reform

2007-09-07 00:54

New census data showing that the number of uninsured U.S. residentsincreased by 2.2 million in 2006 to 47 million "undoubtedly deservesthe attention it is getting," but the "increasing size of the uninsuredpopulation is only a symptom of deeper problems in American healthcare, not the problem itself," Clark Havighurst and Barak Richman,professors at Duke University's School of Law, write in a Wall Street Journalopinion piece. Havighurst and Richman continue, "Indeed, concern forthe uninsured obscures the plight of middle- and lower-income workerswho do have health coverage but pay dearly for it."

Theywrite, "A good way to prepare the public for needed health reformswould be to expose consumers to the true cost of health insurance,"which can be done through President Bush's "pending proposal to tax thevalue of employees' health benefits as income, while also providing acompensating standard deduction or tax credit." Bush's proposal "wouldserve the useful purpose of stimulating market and political demand forlow-cost alternatives, including coverage that stops short of payingfor everything seemingly mandated by professional (that is,non-economic) standards."

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Havighurst and Richman conclude,"Congress is making a mistake in ignoring the president's proposal. Ifvoters realized that it is not only the uninsured whom the currentsystem victimizes, would-be reformers of all stripes might finally finda broad constituency willing to support fundamental change"(Havighurst/Richman, Wall Street Journal, 9/6).
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Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily Health Policy Report, search the archives, andsign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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