Friday, May 29, 2009

Health Care Choice

According to the Denver Post, Howard Dean was in town on Friday stumping for health care reform:

Howard Dean, calling himself a "counterweight to the insurance industry," rallied a Denver crowd Wednesday to push for a public, government-subsidized insurance option for all ages. The former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who is traveling the country to talk about health care reform, said Americans also should have the option of keeping their private insurance.

Of course, if Dean really wants to help the Obama administration's efforts, he didn't do them any favors when he says things like, "Republicans try to act like it's some kind of socialist, communist plot. Welcome to socialized medicine. It's called Medicare." People don't want to see socialized medicine - they want to see national health insurance. People want the doctors and the hospitals and the drug companies operating in the free market where the consumer has choices on who he sees and what he's willing to pay for. They perceive "socialized medicine" as single-payer systems in Canada and Britain where the doctors work for the government. That won't fly here. And Obama didn't help himself when he recently said of reform, "If we don't get it done this year, we're not going to get it done." Not a good idea to throw down ultimatums. We don't like being scared or threatened, and we want change, but not hasty change.

Thus, I am still baffled by the Administration's refusal to offer consumers another "choice" with a logical blend of public and private care. This is best exemplified by the Healthy Americans Act - also known as the Wyden-Bennett plan - or the extension of FEHBP - Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan - to all Americans. In these systems, the free market exists and health care providers bid to serve a pool of 300 million Americans. Each person can choose to purchase as much or as little as he needs or wants, but no one is denied access. No one is forced to give up his doctor - as I was in our current private employer-based system - and all medical decisions remain between the doctor and patient.

The problem for critics of Dean and Obama is that the country wants change, and it will come, and if conservatives are not careful, they could end up with single-payer simply because they provided no logical alternative that maintains the free market. HAA and FEHBP do this. Let's get on it.

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