While campaigning in Iowa yesterday, Barack Obama began discussing his plans for health care reform:
In the biggest domestic policy proposal so far of his presidential campaign, Obama, the Illinois Democrat, said he would rely on a combination of the existing employer-based system and a new government program to make health insurance accessible to everyone. He also promised to reduce the cost of health insurance by helping with expenditures for catastrophic illnesses that are a major factor in driving up employers’ rates.
Throwing down a challenge to a powerful industry, Obama pledged new scrutiny and new limits on the profits of the biggest insurance companies, declaring it was simply “the right thing to do.”
Obama seems to be taking a very aggressive stance in his bid for the presidency; clearly targeting the “average” American and even taking shots at his main Democratic rival:
Bemoaning a health care “cost crisis,” Obama said it was unacceptable that 47 million in the country are uninsured while others are struggling to pay their medical bills. He said the time is ripe for reforming the health care system despite an inability to do so in the past, most notably when rival Hillary Rodham Clinton pursued major changes during her husband’s presidency.
“We can do this,” Obama said in a speech in Iowa City at the University of Iowa’s medical school. “The climate is far different than it was the last time we tried this in the early nineties.”
The last time we tried and failed in the early nineties. A not too subtle shot.
Are we talking socialized medicine here like our neighbors to the north?
Obama’s plan would expand the federal role in regulating insurers and paying for health care, particularly for the costliest cases. But it would stop short of creating a Canadian-style system in which the government paid all the bills. The proposal would require most employers to contribute toward workers’ coverage and require parents to obtain insurance for their children through an employer, a government program, or on their own.
The plan’s most far-reaching aspect is a set of cost-containment reforms that Obama said could save a typical insured family up to $2,500 a year by wringing out much of the inefficiency and waste that make the U.S. health care system the world’s costliest.
One area Obama identifies for improvement and cost savings is in the world of health care IT.
Obama also called for a series of steps to overhaul the current health care system. He would spend more money boosting technology in the health industry such as electronic record-keeping, put in place better management for chronic diseases and create a reinsurance pool for catastrophic illnesses to take the burden of their costs off of other premium payers.
Goodness knows, there are opportunities to improve patient care and reduce costs with proper IT systems, but how will all of this be funded?
Obama didn’t mention how much his plan would cost and the campaign refused to provide a total figure. A memo written by three outside experts and distributed by the campaign after his speech said the plan would cost an estimated $50 billion to $65 billion a year once fully implemented. That amount, however, is after deducting what the campaign says Obama’s plan would generate through improved efficiency and other federal savings.
The experts also said Obama could pay for his plan mostly through steps that the candidate has already said he would take – allowing President Bush’s tax cuts on dividends and capital gains and on those making more than about $250,000 a year to expire in 2010 instead of acting to make them permanent.
The rest of the $65 billion funding could come by raising taxes on inheritances worth more than $7 million. Many Democrats want to repeal Bush’s elimination of taxes on estates worth more than $1 million. Obama wants the exemption to be higher but has not yet said exactly where it should be set.
Well, at least we are starting to hear about the real issues facing our country today. Stay tuned for more, but it looks like the candidates are starting to get serious.
What are others saying?
Narcissistic Views on News/Politics: The costs will be high and quickly get out of control. Its a nice plan in terms of Obama giving himself some talking points, but realistically its garbage.
Right Wing Nut House: The biggest question I have are the uninsured and their responsibility to the rest of us. Since many of the uninsured appear to be younger, employed Americans who simply donâ€™t want to pay for coverage, how do we include them in the insurance pool?
The Glittering Eye: Just for the record, I think that our healthcare system has a problem but that it isnâ€™t an insurance problem. Healthcare insurance is expensive because healthcare is expensive. I donâ€™t think that healthcare costs can be brought down (without causing a public health problem) either by extending healthcare insurance to everybodyâ€”both sides of the cost equation need to be addressed. We need a substantially increased supply of healthcare as well as keeping the demand for healthcare within our means.
And no universal coverage plan will survive open borders.