News Release

Health Care’s Central Role

ELLEN SHAFFER
Shaffer is co-director of the Center for Policy Analysis, focusing on health policy. She said today: “Obama said his plan will be only a ‘downpayment on what we must have: quality affordable health care for every American.’ He stuck with the program for cost control he campaigned on: large investments in preventive care and electronic medical records, and reducing waste, fraud and abuse.

“It’s genuinely exciting and encouraging to hear, ‘It cannot wait, it must not wait, it will not wait another year.’

“Now, the hard realities set in. There are two fundamental conditions for controlling health care costs that the U.S. lacks, in contrast with every other industrialized country. One is getting everyone covered. We can’t stop whipsawing prices until we have everyone in the same tent. The other is authorizing a negotiating entity — in most cases the government — with the political will and the power to take on the customary practices of the medical industrial complex. This includes wringing out the administrative waste for which we continue to reward the predatory health insurance industry. More rational financing systems are generally associated with systems that produce better outcomes. Predicting that it will work in reverse is … optimistic.

“It’s an enterprise that will require, at some point, taking a hard stand. The public that the president inspired to organize over the last year will have to provide the ballast for this effort to succeed.

“Having dispatched the knotty problem of health care, the president said we would also have to address the equally difficult problems of Social Security. In fact, as he is well aware, the minor fiscal adjustments required to sustain Social Security are but a blip compared with the task of fixing our health care system. The reference to tax-free universal savings accounts seemed to be a troubling nod to the Peterson Institute, which has been waxing frantically in full-page ads about the U.S.’s deficit spending on ‘entitlements’ while referring only in passing to the trillions detonated in Iraq (Baseline Scenario, February 2009, by Peter Boone, Effective Intervention, and Simon Johnson, Peterson Institute for International Economics).

“Meanwhile, the best the Republican respondent Gov. Bobby Jindal could do to attack the competence of government was to decry the Republicans’ own failures during Katrina. He distorted Obama’s quality improvements as government-run health care. Interestingly, Jindal did not say that his own prescription, to leave health care decisions to doctors and patients, would apply to the reproductive choices of women, girls and families…. ”

Note: At the White House “economic summit” on Monday, Peter Orszag, Director of the Office on Management and Budget, stated: “The single most important thing we can do to put this nation back on a sustainable long-term fiscal course, is slow the growth rate of health care costs. … So, to my fellow budget hawks in this room and in the rest of the country, let me be very clear. Health care reform is entitlement reform. The path to fiscal responsibility must run directly through health care.”

Scheduled for today: Many in Congress and the administration are reportedly looking to the experimental legislation on health care passed in Massachusetts in 2006. A panel of witnesses from Massachusetts will testify at a Congressional forum in the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET urging caution in replicating the Massachusetts plan nationally. The panel will include State Senator Jamie Eldridge (who voted for the law in 2006); Dr. David Himmelstein of Cambridge Hospital; Arthur MacEwan, a University of Massachusetts economist; Sandy Eaton, RN, of the Massachusetts Nurses Association and Peter Knowlton, president of the United Electrical Workers, Northeast Region. For more, including a live video stream beginning 2 p.m. ET. Contact: Benjamin Day, Mass-Care, cell: (617) 777-3422, director@masscare.org.
More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, (202) 421-6858; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167