Government's Role In Helping US Residents Obtain Health Coverage

Armen Hareyan's picture

Many observers when the yearbegan expected the new Democratic-controlled Congress and President Bush to"make some headway on the problem many voters placed at the top of thenation's domestic agenda -- health care for the uninsured and rising medicalcosts that are squeezing the middle class" -- but lawmakers "fellback into the old pattern of harsh partisan rhetoric and stalemate," the Los Angeles Times reports.

The Times cites the failure of Congress and Bush to reach anagreement on legislation that would have reauthorized and expanded SCHIP.According to the Times, their "failure to act underscores howhard the health care problem is to deal with, and it puts the issue squarely inthe laps of the presidential candidates in both parties."

The debate over SCHIP also "uncovered the main fault line in thediscussion of broader reforms" -- the role of the federal government inefforts to "help middle-class families struggling to afford healthcare" -- and "reaffirmed a key political lesson": major"changes can't get accomplished in a divided government without supportfrom all the key players," the Times reports.



Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)said, "A lot of people will say, 'If Congress couldn't pass legislationwith respect to children, how could we possibly go on to a broader effort tofix health care?'" He added, "I am still confident there is thecapacity to deal with health care on a broader basis, and both sides can securewhat they want most: Democrats making sure everybody gets covered -- becausethat's how you rein in costs -- and Republicans being able to say, 'Look, thegovernment is not running health care.'"

Former CMS Administrator Mark McClellan, a health careeconomist, said, "If we are going to get to broad-based reform, it's notgoing to be the model of government paying for most of it," adding,"Rather, it's coverage that would provide help from the government butexpect real contributions from individuals, with partial subsidies at higherincome levels."

According to Len Nichols, an economist and director of the health care programat the New America Foundation, "The debacle is not apartisan war between Democrats and Republicans over how to cover children, it'sa civil war within the Republican Party over the role of government and healthpolicy in general" (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times,12/14).

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