Subjects: Health policy
Tom Daschle’s confirmation as Secretary of HHS is not in doubt so he used yesterday’s hearings to reinforce the need for massive health care reform beginning now.
“As we face a harsh and deep recession, the problem of the uninsured is likely to grow,” he said. And the uninsured “can’t get sick without total economic destruction.”
Daschle’s encounter on the hill was generally friendly. No one asked how he’ll beef up community health centers, support primary care providers, speed approval of generic drugs, and improve medical information systems.
Those details can wait for another day, but it’s now apparent that the honeymoon phase is over when it comes to the Big O’s plans for a new federal entitlement plan that would compete with private insurers.
Daschle told Congress “a government-run insurance program modeled after Medicare” would provide alternatives to private coverage for all consumers, including the uninsured.
The public plan might even be able to provide better benefits and service at a lower cost than UnitedHealth, WellPoint, Aetna and the rest, and at a minimum the competition should motivate private insurers to control costs more effectively.
Well! This does not sit well with Big Insurance, some employers and some Republicans. After all, a new entitlement program like that might have advantages in the market that are so profound–it could drive private insurers right out of business.
Jacob Hacker, a political science professor at UC Berkeley believes the new option is necessary if the Big O’s plans to save money and cover everyone are to succeed.
“Public insurance has a better track record than private insurance when it comes to reining in costs while preserving access to care,” Hacker told the New York Times.
Big Insurance knows it’s playing winner take all and that public opinion isn’t on its side. No one can predict how an animal reacts when it’s backed into a corner.