Health Care Reform, 1/15/2010
With over 40 million uninsured Americans and spiraling health care costs, the need for a better health care system is clear to most Americans. Early in his administration, President Obama declared health care reform his number one domestic priority. Two bills were passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate at the end of 2009. The key debate when Congress resumes session in 2010 will be reconciling the two bills. Join Active Minds as we look at the two bills and the next steps in health care reform.
Key Lecture Points:
• The American Health Care system faces significant challenges. 46 million Americans (about 15% of the population) live without health insurance. Additionally, the US spends more per capita on health care than any other industrialized democracy in the world. In 2008, the US spent $2.3 trillion on health care (16% of its GDP).
• As health care costs continue to escalate, Americans are paying more out of pocket for their healthcare. In a deep recession, people are even more concerned about paying for their healthcare needs. As more Americans lose their jobs, they also lose their health care coverage. In addition, the rising costs also affect the significant government health care programs, Medicare and Medicaid, which are expected to exhaust their surpluses by 2017.
• After his inauguration, President Obama requested Congress pass health care reform legislation. The ensuing public debate, especially on the public option, quickly polarized the nation. With strong pressure from the White House, bills were passed by the House of Representatives in November (with only one Republican voting in favor) and the Senate on Christmas Eve (with no Republican votes). Many Democrats were disappointed that the Senate bill did not have a “public options”. Others felt that the bills, while not ideal, went a long way toward insuring more Americans and beginning to get escalating costs under control.
• The January 2010 Massachusetts Special Senate election (to decide the replacement for Ted Kennedy, himself a staunch advocate for Health Care legislation) has created another wrinkle in the discussion of reconciliation of the Congressional Bills. The surprise victory of Republican Scott Brown means that Democrats in the Senate no longer have a filibuster proof majority of 60 votes. Thus, whatever bill is sent back to the Senate for a final vote must have at least one Republican supporter to get to the floor for final passage. In the alternative, Democrats in the House could pass the Senate version and send a bill to the President, which could be reconciled at a later point. Republicans appear at this point to be unified in their opposition to either bill.
• What do you think is the biggest problem with the American health care system?
• What provisions do you want to see in the final health care reform legislation?
• Do you recall a time when the cost of health care was burdensome to you?
• What do you recall the debates about Medicare and Medicaid in your lifetime?
More to Explore:
• Detailed side-by-side comparison fo the House and Senate bills: www.kff.org
• Condensed side-by-side of the two bills: www.pbs.org
• Glossary of health care and health care management terms: http://depts.washington.edu
Books For Further Reading:
• Rooney, J. Patrick and Perrin, Dan. America’s Health Care Crisis Solved: Money-Saving Ideas, Coverage for Everyone. John Wiley and Sons, 2008. 272 pages. These authors detail the current financing and cost problems in American health care and offer a moderate solution that combines individual initiative and responsibility with government support for the uninsured. Click here to order.
• Halvorson, George C. Health Care Will Not Reform Itself: A User’s Guide to Refocusing and Reforming American Health Care. Productivity Press, 2009. 159 pages. Halvorson, Kaiser Permanente CEO, looks at the current healthcare environment and the need for reform. He makes recommendations on how we can curb healthcare costs. Click here to order.