May 10, 1010
Washington Post Discussion on America's New Health Care Law
Jackie Judd, vice president and senior advisor for communications, Kaiser Family Foundation:
"You wrote the... opening, overview chapter (of "Landmark" - a new book by the reporting staff of the Washington Post on the new health care law), and in there you said that while the law is complex, it's also moderate and incremental, and it's that very moderation that makes it complicated. What do you mean?"
Alec MacGillis, reporter for the Washington Post:
"Well, it's something I tried to say often during this whole debate. When people complained about the length of the bill - a two thousand page monstrosity, so complicated - and I wrote a piece back in the Fall that tried to address that argument and pointed out that, you know, if you really wanted a simple bill, then you could just blow this whole thing up.
"And, you know, single payer is very simple. You just, you know - government-run health insurance - get rid of all the health insurance companies, and there are a lot fewer rules to write. That's simpler, but, obviously, we were not going to do that.
"We were going to take a much more moderate, market-based approach to this. And that means preserving the foundations of our existing system. And that means ending up with something with a law that's much more complex, because you're sort of tweaking here and there. You're not just - it's not tabula rasa - you're not starting over.
"But in its main elements it really is a quite moderate and incremental approach. We are preserving the private health insurance system. It's modeled - no matter what Mitt Romney tells you now - this is modeled on the plan that he passed in 2006 as a Republican governor of Massachusetts; it's modeled on the Republican alternative to the Clinton plan in the early nineties; it's modeled on Richard Nixon's plan in the seventies; it's modeled on the idea put forward by the Heritage Foundation early last decade, although they're trying to distance themselves right now from that; but it really is an attempt to build on what we have now, and because you're doing it that way, you end up with this messy thing. But it's really not that... but the main elements are not that complicated.
"What we basically have - the best way to think of it is kind of a three legged stool. We are expanding coverage by requiring that everyone get coverage. We're also telling the insurance companies that they have to provide everyone coverage who comes and asks for it. So they have to take you; you have to get it. That way you get the healthy people into the pool so that they can afford to take the sick people as well. And then to help people afford to get the coverage that they're required to get, you provide subsidies. But that's it, and you need all three legs of that stool. That's why you need have a mandate."
Comment: So by pursuing a moderate, market-based, Republican-based approach, the health care law was made much more complicated. But the greater tragedy is that it wasn't only made more complicated, it failed in our goals of covering everyone with a financing system that we could afford. The complicated reform proposal that is now law is the most expensive model of reform ever devised, not to mention being one of the least effective.
As Alec MacGillis states, "... single payer is very simple. You just, you know - government-run health insurance - get rid of all the health insurance companies, and there are a lot fewer rules to write."
We still can "blow this whole thing up," and enact single payer. Not only would there be fewer rules, everyone would have the health care that they need, and we would be able to pay for it. That will never happen under the new law.