Discussing Health Care Overhaul Efforts

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Summaries of several recent editorials and opinion pieces about efforts to overhaul the U.S. health care system appear below.

Editorials

* Indianapolis Star: President-elect Barack Obama signaled that he is "serious about his campaign promise to make [health care] a first-term priority" by reportedly selecting former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) as HHS secretary, a Star editorial states. There also are "positive signs" of progression on health care reform in the Senate, where Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) released a detailed outline of preferred legislation and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) "quickly asserted his right to be at the center of action," according to the Star. "A fast start is important because it takes untold hours to work through all the complex issues involved in comprehensive health care," the editorial states. According to the editorial, some people have said that Obama will have to delay health care reform efforts because of the economic downturn, but "every indication is that he will not wait" (Indianapolis Star, 11/24).

* Philadelphia Inquirer: Obama's plan to overhaul the health care system might succeed if he "is willing to embrace a key strategy he rejected during the campaign": requiring all U.S. residents to obtain health coverage, an Inquirer editorial states. Last week, insurers "offered to accept all customers, regardless of illness or disability," as long as Congress also includes the coverage requirement in a plan, according to the editorial. The editorial states, "Given the president-elect's advocacy for reform and the insurance industry's opening offer, Congress has a green light to get serious about health care legislation -- even with other economic issues taking center stage" (Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/26).

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* Washington Post: Obama has not yet revealed adequate examples of cuts that need to be made to the federal budget, and while he has been on "firmer ground" in addressing the rising expense of health care, he has so far "skated lightly over the difficult choices that controlling health care costs will entail," a Post editorial states. "[A]t some point he is going to have to stop talking vaguely about the need for 'sacrifice' and be more candid about what that will entail," according to the editorial (Washington Post, 11/26).

* Washington Times: Obama and the Democratic Congress are "poised to make the fiscal burden" of health care worse "while jeopardizing the ability of private citizens to choose the best health care solutions for their families," according to a Times editorial. According to the editorial, when Obama "says that no American should be denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions or illness, he is effectively telling them that even if they smoke, abuse drugs or become obese, the government will force private insurers to cover them at the same premium." The editorial adds, "It is a perfect formula for driving many private insurers out of business and replacing them with a government-run monopoly." Obama's proposed health care plan would "result in massive increases in federal spending, higher federal taxes and taxpayer debt being passed on to our children and grandchildren," the Times states (Washington Times, 11/26).

Opinion Pieces

* Sam Berger, San Francisco Chronicle: "While it's past time to fully support stem cell science, the research should be protected by legislation, not just an executive order," Berger, a former stem cell policy worker at the Center for American Progress, writes in a Chronicle opinion piece. Obama can eliminate stem cell research restrictions without Congress, but the research would have "more stable protection" if it is encoded in law because the next president could not overturn it. In addition, Congress passing such legislation would signal bipartisanship, since both parties recently passed stem cell legislation "only to see President Bush veto the bills despite overwhelming support of the research from the American people." According to Berger, "Passing this legislation and having President Obama sign it into law would signal the new direction the voters of this country have chosen, one that encourages reaching across the aisle to realize the promise of the future" (Berger, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/16).

* Tony Blankley, Washington Times: "It's a fair guess" that the opinions of Daschle, who is reportedly Obama's pick for HHS Secretary, on health care legislation "may be decisive," Blankley, a syndicated columnist, writes in a Times opinion piece. Blankley continues that it is "worth reading [Daschle's] book 'Critical: What we can do about the health care crisis,'" to determine Daschle's potential strategy because he "lays out without equivocation both the policy he recommends and the tactics for how to pass it." According to Blankley, Daschle recognizes that some of his ideas "might not be vastly popular," so Daschle recommends that administrations seek to pass legislation early in a president's first term, "when he is most popular and is least likely to be resisted." Blankley writes that Daschle notes that one of the mistakes made by President Clinton when he tried to reform health care in 1993 is that he "put too many details in the bill, thus alerting those who disagreed to mount an opposition." According to Blankley, Daschle might avoid that problem by "leav[ing] the nasty details out of the bill." Blankley concludes, "Apparently we can end petty bickering and partisanship by not letting anyone know what the new laws will contain" (Blankley, Washington Times, 11/26).

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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