For the better part of the last year, health care reform has dominated the national legislative agenda. At the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), panelists discussed alternatives for reform and ways that their individual organizations had already effected the political debate.
Moderator Grace-Marie Turner, President of the Galen Institute, said that she didn’t believe that the fight to pass ObamaCare was over despite the fact that both houses passed their own individual health care bills but have been unable to reconcile their differences and pass unified legislation.
Speaking of the period prior to the election of Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.), now the 41st Republican in the Senate, Turner said that “We were truly within days, or at most weeks, of ObamaCare being enacted, but even today if the House were to take a suicide vote and pass the Senate bill, it would be on the President’s desk immediately and signed into law.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, these bills cannot be fixed,” she argued at the beginning of the “Saving Freedom From ObamaCare” panel. “Even today, news reports say that the White House will post a merged bill online on Monday and dare Republicans to oppose it at next week’s health summit at Blair House.”
The Obama Administration posted its 11-page health care reform proposal online on Monday, Feb. 22, just days ahead of the health summit scheduled for this Thursday. However, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director’s Blog stated on Monday that the President’s proposal lacks the detail necessary to be scored. “Moreover, preparing a cost estimate requires very detailed specifications of numerous provisions, and the materials that were released this morning do not provide sufficient detail on all of the provisions,” states the entry. “Therefore, CBO cannot provide a cost estimate for the proposal without additional detail, and, even if such detail were provided, analyzing the proposal would be a time-consuming process that could not be completed this week.”
The Obama Administration estimates the cost of their proposal at $950 billion, reports The Economist on February 23. “This estimate breaks Mr. Obama’s pledge to keep any reform effort under $900 billion,” it states. “And that $950 billion figure may yet grow.”
“We are not safe from passage of ObamaCare until the gavel falls on the 111th Congress,” argued Turner at CPAC. “Even today a Democratic strategist said they are going to come out with guns a-blazing, determined to pass ObamaCare after this Thursday summit.”
She introduced a series of speakers: Heather Higgins, Director of Independent Women’s Voice; Dr. Eric Novack, orthopedic surgeon; Dr. Hal Scherz, President of Docs 4 Patient Care; and Jim Martin, President of the 60 Plus Association.
Higgins said that “The reality is that ObamaCare is our fault and the reason I say that it [is] is that after 1994 we did the Republican thing which is thinking ‘oh, we’ve won that, whew, now we can go back to doing other things’ and the reality is that groups like the Galen Institute were left with insufficient funding and no political interest in actually solving the problem so that it wouldn’t come back again.” IWV actively influenced the Massachusetts election of Senator Scott Brown, she said.
Dr. Scherz pushed for medical malpractice report reforms such as “tak[ing] malpractice out of the civil system,” “institut[ing] no-fault insurance, and maybe “putt[ing] these cases into specialty courts.” “This is the inside scoop into what doctors believe,” he argued.
Jim Martin said that seniors felt “betrayed” by the proposed massive cuts to Medicare and that “a senior citizen tsunami” is “headed toward Capitol Hill.”
Dr. Eric Novack spoke about the principles he said he identified in 2006 regarding the need for health reform. The Health Care Freedom Act is based on two principles, he said:
1) ” … if a health care service is legal, no one, public or private, should ever be able to take away your right to spend your own money to get access to that care,” and
2) “You should not be forced to participate in any health care system or plan in which you do not want to participate.”
The latter principle would be incompatible with either a universal health care system or the individual health insurance mandate such as the one in Massachusetts. “Thirty-seven states have either filed, announced their intention to file, or in some fashion actually passed versions of the bill,” said Dr. Novack at CPAC.
Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) noted how that the President’s proposal, does not include a public option, writes Jared Allen on February 23 for The Hill. “I think the public option can pass in the House…But it’s not in the president’s proposal,” Allen quotes Rep. Hoyer.
But the President’s proposal (pdf) does include an individual mandate, and attempts to forge a compromise between the House and Senate bills. Under the heading “improve individual responsibility,” the President’s proposal states that in order to reduce cost-shifting “The President’s Proposal adopts the Senate approach but lowers the flat dollar assessments, and raises the percent of income assessment that individuals pay if they choose not to become insured.”
“The President’s Proposal raises the percent of income that is an alternative payment amount from 0.5% to 1.0% in 2015 and 2.0 to 2.5% for 2016 and subsequent years,” it states. (Married couples earning under $18,700 annually “will not have to pay the assessment,” it states.)
One health reform suggestion offered by the late Chris Warden, author of Accuracy in Academia’s textbook Voodoo Anyone? How to Understand Economics Without Really Trying, is to stop insulating consumers from their health care costs so that they can make wise spending choices. “Patients want more care because the price is so low, while producers want to provide less care because they aren’t being fully reimbursed. Thus, you have a shortage of health care,” he writes in Voodoo Anyone?