Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Obama-Biden Health Care Agenda

The Obama-Biden Transition Team is requesting that all interested citizens pay a visit to the transition's website,, and voice ideas and concerns regarding American health care and health care reform. By clicking here, you can go directly to the web page dedicated to the health care agenda and submit your opinions and views.

The Obama-Biden web page discusses health care in this manner:

"On health care reform, the American people are too often offered two extremes -- government-run health care with higher taxes or letting the insurance companies operate without rules. Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe both of these extremes are wrong, and that’s why they’ve proposed a plan that strengthens employer coverage, makes insurance companies accountable and ensures patient choice of doctor and care without government interference.

"The Obama-Biden plan provides affordable, accessible health care for all Americans, builds on the existing health care system, and uses existing providers, doctors, and plans. Under the Obama-Biden plan, patients will be able to make health care decisions with their doctors, instead of being blocked by insurance company bureaucrats.

"Under the plan, if you like your current health insurance, nothing changes, except your costs will go down by as much as $2,500 per year. If you don’t have health insurance, you will have a choice of new, affordable health insurance options."

Allegedly, the plan would:

  • Require insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions so all Americans regardless of their health status or history can get comprehensive benefits at fair and stable premiums.
  • Create a new Small Business Health Tax Credit to help small businesses provide affordable health insurance to their employees.
  • Lower costs for businesses by covering a portion of the catastrophic health costs they pay in return for lower premiums for employees.
  • Prevent insurers from overcharging doctors for their malpractice insurance and invest in proven strategies to reduce preventable medical errors.
  • Make employer contributions more fair by requiring large employers that do not offer coverage or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of their employees' health care.
  • Establish a National Health Insurance Exchange with a range of private insurance options as well as a new public plan based on benefits available to members of Congress that will allow individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health coverage.
  • Ensure everyone who needs it will receive a tax credit for their premiums.
  • Lower drug costs by allowing the importation of safe medicines from other developed countries, increasing the use of generic drugs in public programs, and taking on drug companies that block cheaper generic medicines from the market.
  • Require hospitals to collect and report health care cost and quality data.
  • Reduce the costs of catastrophic illnesses for employers and their employees.
  • Reform the insurance market to increase competition by taking on anticompetitive activity that drives up prices without improving quality of care.
I am personally dubious that insurance company practices can be sufficiently reformed to prevent abuses. I am also dubious that such a ponderous system administered by both the federal government and employers will not prove incredibly complex and difficult to manage for employers, government officials, insurers, providers, and consumers alike.

In terms of the plan, I would also like to see the following:

  • details regarding a more robust national plan of preventive health care initiatives
  • sufficient funding for public health initiatives
  • sufficient funding for emergency preparedness and the national Medical Reserve Corps
  • a comprehensive plan to decrease the nursing shortage, including grants and loan forgiveness
  • a plan to assuage the nationwide shortage of primary care physicians
  • a plan to create an Office of the National Nurse

Despite my reservations, doubts, and dubiousness, it is indeed exciting to see a new administration apparently dedicated to transparency, as well as the active participation of all Americans in the process of change that is underway.

Meanwhile, I am willing to suspend my disbelief, listen to the conversation, join in on the conversation when I have something useful to say, and watch as the story unfolds. These are exciting and nerve-wracking times, and I do indeed hope that the change that has been promised will indeed be delivered. Until that time, patience is one virtue we will all need to put into practice.

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