The Washington Times fired off two separate editorials today criticizing incoming Health and Human Services secretary Tom Daschle’s Federal Health Board initiative and progressive health care reform. Universal health care “would also reduce consumer choice and drive many private insurers out of the market,” the Times claimed:
Although his board would technically have no say on the 68 percent of health care that is provided through the private sector, Mr. Daschle modestly adds: “Congress could opt to go further with the Board’s recommendations. It could, for example, link the tax exclusion for health insurance to insurance that complies with the Board’s recommendation.” Those last 19 words would spell the end of independent private-sector health care in America. [Tony Blankley]
It would result in massive increases in federal spending, higher federal taxes and taxpayer debt being passed on to our children and grandchildren. It would also reduce consumer choice and drive many private insurers out of the market, leaving all but the wealthiest Americans with little choice but to receive care from the resulting government monopoly. [Washington Times]
The attacks are certainly reminiscent of the conservative effort to mischaractarize President Clinton’s health care reforms. In 1993, the Heritage Foundation labeled Clinton’s plan “a massive top-down, bureaucratic command-and-control system that would meticulously govern virtually every aspect of the delivery and the financing of health care services for the American people.” An influential editorial published in the Wall Street Journal by the Manhattan Institute similarly described the Clinton plan as a “coercive” proposal that “takes personal health choices away from patients and families.” [Health Plan's Devilish Details, WSJ, 9/30/1993]
Fifteen years later, conservative talking points — however consistent — still don’t match reality. In truth, Tom Daschle supports the breadth of progressive health care initiatives: 1) an insurance exchange that allows private plans to compete with a new public plan 2) expansion of Medicaid and SCHIP 3) subsidies for Americans who can’t afford to buy insurance.
Rather than relying on the government to provide care, progressive prescriptions are rooted in the philosophy of shared responsibility in which every player in the health-care arena — the government, employers, doctors and hospitals, insurers, and individuals — help support a rational, sustainable system.
Daschle’s Federal Health Board that would resemble the current Federal Reserve Board for the banking industry. The Board would ensure harmonization across public programs of “health-care protocols, benefits, and transparency” and would set “evidence-based standards for benefits and quality for federal programs” in the hopes of lowering the complexity of different insurance regulations and ultimately lowering costs. “These standards would apply to federal health programs and contractors and serve as a model for private insurers,” Daschle writes in his book.
Reigning in unsustainable health care spending and providing a model for private insurers is far from a doomsday conspiracy. Consider Massachusetts’ landmark health reform law. The legislation built “upon the existing health care system, with expansions to Medicaid, subsidized coverage for people with low incomes, and reform of private insurance markets.” Far from forcing bureaucrats into consult rooms or spelling “the end of independent private-sector health care,” the legislation increased access to meaningful coverage. In fact, since the program’s launch in June 2006, 439,000 more people have enrolled in health insurance, and nearly half of them signed up for private insurance not funded by taxpayers.
Without offering any alternatives, ideological conservatives are now gearing up for another health care fight. Unfortunately for them, things have changed since the 1990s. This time around, “what’s really exciting about the stakeholders is no longer are they saying that the second-best choice is to do nothing.”