Liberals make their health care demands

Washington Post:

As Congress returns to begin an intense debate over reshaping the nation's $2.2 trillion health-care system, prominent left-leaning organizations and liberal House members are issuing a warning to their Democratic allies: Don't cave on us.

The early skirmishing -- essentially amounting to friendly fire -- is perhaps the clearest indication yet of the uphill battle President Obama faces in delivering on his promise to make affordable, high-quality care available to every American.

Disputes over whether to create a new government-sponsored insurance program to compete with private companies shine a light on the intraparty fissures that may prove more problematic than any partisan brawl.

More than 70 House Democrats recently warned party leaders that they will not support a broad health reform bill that does not offer consumers a government-sponsored policy, and two unions withdrew from a high-profile health coalition because it would not endorse a public plan.

"It's way too early" to abandon what it considers a central plank in health reform, said Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union. He said the organization pulled out of the bipartisan Health Reform Dialogue because it feared its friends in the coalition were sacrificing core principles too soon. "You don't make compromises with your allies."

...

During last year's campaign, Obama proposed offering a government-sponsored plan as a low-cost alternative for Americans who are having trouble purchasing insurance in the private market. Proponents say it would reduce costs because it would not need to make a profit or pay large executive salaries.

Many Republicans and industry executives say that any program modeled after Medicare -- with its power to set prices -- would have an unfair advantage over private-sector competitors and eventually force some companies out of business.

"The sacred cow on the left and the right is the public plan," said former senator Thomas A. Daschle, who was Obama's first choice to oversee the reform effort.

...

One of the false premises of a government plan is that eliminating the "need to make a profit or pay large executive salaries" will create efficiencies. Usually the opposite happens when profit motivation is eliminated. The guy with the best product or service at the best price no longer gets the deal. The government further causes deterioration of services by cutting cost arbitrarily. Then there is the problem of doctors and other providers refusing to participate in the government scheme which does not cover their costs.

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