On Healthcare Reform
Obviously, this is the hot button issue of the moment. I have a hard time understanding the legitimate concerns over this bill -- our current system doesn't work, and the national healthcare that currently does exist (Medicare, Veterans Insurance) is rated among the best options out there in the country.
That being said, I have no idea what the bill passed in the Senate really says. That's what experts are for - so here's an article by Ron Brownstein, talking with Jonathan Gruber, an economist who works with both parties about the bill, as well as other folks who have worked in Republican administrations, all saying that this bill is a milestone in the right direction. Below are some snippets, but the whole article - which President Obama and his administration have been distributing - is worth your read. All bold font is mine.
Jonathan Gruber…is a leading health economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is consulted by politicians in both parties. He was one of almost two dozen top economists who sent President Obama a letter earlier this month insisting that reform won't succeed unless it "bends the curve" in the long-term growth of health care costs. And, on that front, Gruber likes what he sees in the Reid proposal. Actually he likes it a lot.
"I'm sort of a known skeptic on this stuff," Gruber told me. "My summary is it's really hard to figure out how to bend the cost curve, but I can't think of a thing to try that they didn't try. They really make the best effort anyone has ever made. Everything is in here....I can't think of anything I'd do that they are not doing in the bill. You couldn't have done better than they are doing."
Almost everything Baucus proposed to control long-term costs have survived into the final bill. And, with only a few exceptions, that's just about all the systemic reforms analysts from the center to the left have identified as the most promising strategies for changing the economic incentives in the medical system.
The CBO projected that the bill would reduce the federal deficit by $130 billion over its first decade and by as much as $650 billion in its second. (Conservatives, of course, consider those projections unrealistic, but CBO is the only umpire in the game, and Republicans have been happy to trumpet its analyses critical of the Democratic plans.)
No one can say for certain that these initiatives will improve efficiency enough to slow the growth in health care spending. Some are only pilots; others would affect only a small portion of providers' revenue from Medicare. CBO typically evaluates them skeptically: it generally scores little or no savings from most of them. Former CBO director Robert Reischauer, who signed the November 17 letter, says that's not surprising. "CBO is there to score savings for which we have a high degree of confidence that they will materialize," says Reischauer, now president of the Urban Institute. "There are many promising approaches [in these reform ideas] but you...can't deposit them in the bank." In the long run, Reischauer says, it's likely "that maybe half of them, or a third of them, will prove to be successful. But that would be very important."
Note that the article correctly points out that missing from the bill is legitimate malpractice reform, and that absence should be changed. (In fact, there are efforts by Harry Reid to do just that - still, it should have been there in the first place.)
In any event, this makes me feel even better that we're on the precipice of enacting historic change, which after all was what the last election was all about.