Washington-knows-best the wrong approach to health care reform

Grace-Marie Turner President, Galen Institute
Font Size:

The Washington-knows-best approach to governance embraced by the Obama administration and Democratic leaders was on vivid display at Thursday’s health care summit and helps explain why the American people are rejecting their health reform plans.

The bills that have passed the House and Senate use the levers of government—including mandates, regulations, and taxes—to try to fix problems in our health sector. And to pay for their plan, they plan to increase taxes by $500 billion and cut Medicare by almost $500 billion.

The result: Independent studies by the Congressional Budget Office, Medicare’s chief actuary, and other experts show:

  • Health costs will continue to rise
  • Federal health spending will increase
  • People will lose the coverage they have today
  • Taxes will increase, hitting the middle class
  • Doctors and hospitals will become insolvent, jeopardizing access to care for seniors
  • Job creation will suffer

Not surprisingly, the American people have rebelled against ObamaCare, with 73 percent saying Congress should start over with a new bill or stop working altogether on health reform, according to a new CNN survey.

Americans know our health sector is too big, too complex, and too important to try to change in any one bill written by a few political leaders who don’t know the needs of 300 million individual Americans.

Understanding this, Republican leaders are advocating a step-by-step, targeted approach that doesn’t attempt to do everything all at once. They want to restructure incentives to bring more competition, markets, and individual patients and doctors into the health sector.

Allowing interstate purchasing of health insurance, for instance, could give people more choices than may be offered in states with too much regulation and too little competition. A study by Steve Parente and Roger Feldman at the University of Minnesota estimates allowing people to buy policies across state lines would mean an additional 12 million people would purchase insurance.

Many states are extremely concerned about the health care bills in Congress, and rightfully so: struggling state government budgets will be hit hard by ObamaCare. States could serve as laboratories for health reform. Instead, the congressional bills would impose hundreds of costly mandates upon them.

So where do we go from here?

President Obama could have used the summit as an opportunity to redefine success by agreeing to incremental steps through a targeted, smaller bill. Such an approach would garner bipartisan support and could pass Congress.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he is ready to pursue the ultra-partisan path of reconciliation. This route is wrought with political peril for Democrats as they would be betting that their constituents will suddenly share their belief that with health reform, Washington knows best.

Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a non-profit research organization focusing on patient-centered solutions to health reform.