Healthcare Reform Debate Heats Up In The House

            “Health Reform in the 21st Century: Proposals to Reform the Health System” was the title of a hearing held yesterday by the House Committee on Ways and Means.  The hearing opened with statements from Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI) who clearly drew the battle lines around which the two sides would debate.  Although both agreed on the necessity of reform, the main subject was clearly whether a public plan option was, or was not, a good idea.

 

            In Chairman Rangel’s opening remarks, he made the case for reform, and framed it as an absolute necessity.  However, Ranking Member Camp questioned whether the government can afford to create another liability, and whether the price tag for a public plan and for the current tri-committee healthcare reform draft legislation was feasible.  He noted that an independent analysis showed that the draft legislation would cost 3.5 trillion dollars, though he did not specify a time-period.

 

            The Representatives opposed to the draft argued that by passing it we would take off down the slope to socialized medicine, similar to England or Canada.  However, other Representatives argued that was a good thing, as Canada and England have better life expectancy, less infant mortality, and fewer deaths due to doctor error.

 

            The witnesses were clearly divided.  They ranged from an outspoken advocate in favor of a single payer system, to supporters of the public option in the draft legislation, to opposition of any sort of government sponsored health plan.  

 

            One panelist raised the argument that a public option was not fair competition against private insurers (including small insurers), because it had so many advantages granted by being a part of the government, primarily not being taxed and no capital requirements.  Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) had an interesting metaphor for this, saying it was like expecting his daughter’s lemonade stand to compete with McDonalds.

 

            Chairman Rangel made it clear that he believes the insurance industry exists to make money, not deliver the best or most efficient health results, and in his mind, the only way to do so was to introduce government into the equation.  

 

            Whether we can create an efficient and effective public-private healthcare partnership remains to be seen.

 

 

— Myles MacDonald, Advocacy Intern and Claremont McKenna College Student

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