With, reportedly, more than 40 million Americans uninsured and health care costs spiraling out of control, it’s no wonder that health care reform tops the list of domestic issues among the 2008 presidential candidates. Although everyone agrees that the current system doesn’t work, suggestions for improvement are strikingly different.
Explore this issue:December 2007
National polls broken down by party lines have shown that Democratic voters cite uninsured Americans as their primary concern, whereas Republicans worry about high health care costs. In response, Democratic presidential contenders advocate a mandatory or modified universal health care system where it’s the government’s job to make sure everyone has health insurance. On the other hand, Republican candidates have called for shared responsibility and incentives such as tax credits and consumer-directed health savings accounts to reduce costs.
As pointed out recently on the Huffington Post (an online commentary site), the next president will need to resolve issues raised by a variety of advocates, from insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, and business to hospitals and health care providers. America’s choice in 2008 will likely have an impact on health care costs and delivery, and could potentially affect expensive tests ordered by physicians and reimbursement they receive for services.
Is it Time for Universal Care?
In noting the similarities among the Democratic party front-runners, the Commonwealth Fund and its Commission on a High Performance Health System says that Senators Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama want to build on the strengths of the current system by pooling risk in large groups, generating efficiencies through employer-based coverage, and building on the success of public programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
The three candidates call for a new purchasing pool to extend health care coverage to individuals not covered under employee plans. Sens. Clinton and Obama suggest an enhanced Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), whereas Sen. Edwards wants a Medicare-like public insurance option in regional health markets. All three would require insurers to guarantee insurance to everyone, regardless of health status. However, Sens. Clinton and Edwards would require everyone to be covered, while Sen. Obama’s proposal mandates coverage only for children.
The Democratic Front-Runners
Already dubbed Hillary Care by many, Sen. Clinton’s plan would require everyone to have health insurance. She would offer a health-choices menu of private insurance options, a refundable tax credit so working families could buy health coverage, and a health care tax credit for small businesses. For those who want to change plans, or who aren’t currently covered, she offers a public plan option similar to Medicare.