Addressing Health Care Reform Related Issues

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Summaries of several recent editorials and opinion pieces related to health care reform appear below.

Editorials

* Akron Beacon Journal: Reported plans by President-elect Barack Obama to nominate former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) as HHS secretary "signaled clearly" that Obama seeks a "quick legislative push" on health care reform, a Beacon Journal editorial states. A "critical need" exists for a "lead person who is adept both at navigating a host of conflicting interests and structuring and negotiating legislation that stands a true chance of approval in Congress," the editorial states, adding, "Daschle brings that skills set to the task" (Akron Beacon Journal, 11/23).

* Charleston Gazette: Obama "must push with deliberate speed to create all-encompassing U.S. coverage," a Gazette editorial states. The editorial states, "We hope that President Obama and the new Democrat-dominated Congress move America swiftly toward" a single-payer health care system, the "cheapest, best, national insurance format" (Charleston Gazette, 11/18).

* Minneapolis Star Tribune: A report issued last week by the National Priorities Partnership "is likely to have a real impact because of the clarity and timing of its call to action" on health care reform, a Star Tribune editorial states. According to the editorial, the report "puts the onus on system stakeholders to get to work now, identifying six priorities for improving health care and making it more affordable," and "provides a unique collective agenda that ultimately will provide a solid foundation for whatever action the government takes." The editorial states that "its message for health care officials, insurers and providers is simple: Don't wait for the government to act" (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 11/23).

* Nashua Telegraph: The U.S. might "well be reaching the tipping point when it comes to health care," and Obama appears unwilling to put health care on the back burner amid the international financial crisis, as evidenced" by his reported selection of Daschle as HHS secretary, a Telegraph editorial states. Obama "is not likely to repeat the mistake of former President Bill Clinton of pushing too quickly for a single-payer, national health care system now common in the rest of the industrialized world," the editorial states, adding, "Whether Obama's plan goes far enough remains to be seen, but the demand for change is growing to the point where it may now be able to overwhelm even the best-funded opposition the insurance, pharmaceutical and medical industry can muster" (Nashua Telegraph, 11/23).

* Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Health care reform "will fall short" in the event that Obama and Congress "downplay cost," a Democrat and Chronicle editorial states. The editorial adds, "The problems of cost and access -- and, increasingly, quality -- are deeply embedded and it will take a very skilled president and an approachable Congress to deliver meaningful reform" (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 11/23).

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* Wichita Eagle: "Many questions remain about the reforms Obama talked about as a candidate, including a controversial mandate that most employers provide coverage for their workers," but "Obama's choice of Daschle to be his health czar signals the president-elect is serious about reform," a Wichita Eagle editorial states. The editorial states Obama likely will make health care a top priority "in his first 100 days or first year" (Wichita Eagle, 11/24).

* Wilmington News Journal: "The stars seem to be aligning for the Democrats in Congress" to pass health care reform legislation, but the "answers as to whether they will be able to pull it off and what kind of system they turn out won't be in the stars" but "in the politics," a News Journal editorial states. The editorial states, "Obama campaigned on a promise to reform health care," and Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) since "have announced plans for the kind of universal coverage system endorsed by the president-elect during the campaign." According to the editorial, the "biggest sign that the president-elect is moving in the same direction as the congressional Democrats was his" reported selection of Daschle as HHS secretary, as Daschle is the "kind of insider you pick to ram a health package through Congress, not administer one already in place" (Wilmington News Journal, 11/22).

Opinion Pieces

* Michael Brannigan, Albany Times Union: The Obama health care proposal "can only succeed by directly addressing forces that stimulate increased spending," Brannigan, an endowed chair in ethics and moral values at the College of Saint Rose, writes in a Times Union opinion piece. He writes, "Moral means to his noble ends require responsible cost reductions via pharmaceuticals, medical devices, redundant hospital and provider tests, medical technologies, insurance, and medical litigation," adding, "Unless this new administration tackles these challenges, Obama's noble goals for reform are, in effect, another pill to soothe the symptoms of a sick health system without treating its causes" (Brannigan, Albany Times Union, 11/23).

* Devon Herrick, Tallahassee Democrat: "Many of us already have had experiences with limited access to health care -- through HMOs," which have "tried to control health costs by controlling which doctors patients could see, limiting the specialists that one can visit and reducing the options that were available," Herrick, a senior fellow in health care economics at the National Center for Policy Analysis, writes in a Democrat opinion piece. "Instead of wasting time on a system that limits our choices, creates long waiting times and has the potential to jeopardize our health, the United States should opt for a system of innovation and choice," he writes. According to Herrick, "Now is not the time to move ahead with proposals for single-payer, universal health care. Nor is next year or the year after that." He continues, "Instead, Congress should act now to let American consumers -- not federal bureaucrats -- make their health care decisions." Herrick concludes, "When we force medical providers to compete on price, we're all much better off" (Herrick, Tallahassee Democrat, 11/21).

* Pete du Pont, Wall Street Journal: The proposal for "a more nationalized" health care system recently announced by Baucus seeks to "put government, as opposed to the individual, more in charge of health care decisions," du Pont, chair of the National Center for Policy Analysis board, writes in a Journal opinion piece. According to du Pont, the proposal "would add between $200 billion and $300 billion to the $2.3 trillion" in annual U.S. health care spending and would "intrude into our medical decisions since the government would decide what policies many of us could buy and what health care provisions they would have to contain." As a result of the proposal, "existing health care programs -- Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP -- would be expanded, new health care regulation for business and individual policies would be established and America would have a vast new health care program, run for and largely paid for by the government," du Pont writes. He concludes, "But like it or not, when our new government takes office in January, socialized medicine may well be on its way into America" (du Pont, Wall Street Journal, 11/24).

* Tom Teepen, Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Obama "looks to be serious about health care reform" based on his reported selection of Daschle as HHS secretary, Cox columnist Teepen writes in a Post-Intelligencer opinion piece. According to Teepen, Daschle, a "longtime advocate of universal health coverage, is unlikely to have signed on" as HHS secretary "if he hadn't been assured health reform was a live agenda item" (Teepen, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 11/24).

* Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), Tennessean: Congressional Republicans need to "find middle ground on extending health care benefits to the approximately 45 million uninsured people in our country by using the tax code and allowing health insurance to be sold more like a product and less like a workplace one-size-fits-all benefit" as part of an effort to recover from defeats in recent elections, Wamp writes in a Tennessean opinion piece. He writes, "The talk of rebranding the Republican Party is overplayed," adding, "From here on out, our goals must be based on addition, not subtraction. We must reach out to attract the vast middle with a genuine desire to serve them, fix what is broken in our country and broaden our base" (Wamp, Tennessean, 11/25).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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