Friday, December 19, 2008

Conservatives Need to Be Part of Health care Reform

Stuart Butler, Vice President of Domestic Policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation has an op-ed in Thursday’s Washington Times, “Four Steps Can Heal Health Care.”

He makes some very valuable points and proposes four steps toward reforming the health care system most people—liberals and conservatives—could agree on:
  1. Making sure every working family has access to an affordable private health plan that could include state-based default plans with agreed upon minimum benefits and premiums subsidized through reinsurance pools that spread any adverse risk over the broad private market.
  2. Encouraging insurance exchanges not unlike those envisioned by Democrats but at the state level where Stuart sees these exchanges avoiding “endless Congressional micromanagement.”
  3. Reforming the existing federal tax preferences for health insurance by capping the value of these tax breaks as a means to encourage more efficient plans and raise revenue to help pay for premium subsidies
  4. Redesigning the Medicaid and SCHIP programs by giving states the ability to streamline these programs and free-up funds to expand the help the low-income people get for health insurance—including vouchers to purchase private coverage.
The liberals are not going to achieve health care reform on their own. Liberals and a few moderates aren’t either. Trying to get 52 or 55 votes in the Senate will not be enough. Without broad based Congressional support opponents of any reform bill will cut it to pieces.

In order to make the country as a whole comfortable that the reworking of the American health care system is going to be for the better we are going to need a broad consensus that reaches into the ranks of at least some conservatives as well. The American people need to see more than liberals and more than Democrats standing up for it.

Don’t forget, 85% of all Americans have health insurance. They may be worried about it and its future, but they have it and it isn’t hard to scare them into thinking that the risks of change still outweigh any big unproven new programs. Harry and Louise are still alive and well and easily spooked.

Stuart Butler’s op-ed should remind Democrats that conservatives have a lot to contribute to this debate, and if they really want to build a broad based coalition toward health care reform our people can feel comfortable with, it would be wise to reward goodwill offerings like this with a goodwill opportunity to be genuinely part of the process.

Earlier post: Consensus on Health Care Reform Means More Than 70 Senate Votes
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