Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thinking Outside the Casket

A guest blog on health reform from Research!America
The first 16 minutes of the Democratic presidential debate the other night were devoted to almost Talmudic hairsplitting between the two candidates over health care reform. But what if Sens. Obama, Clinton and McCain are asking and answering the wrong questions, especially since no candidate’s health plan has much chance of being enacted in whole, or even in part, by the next Congress?

Two new visions operating outside the traditional arenas in the health reform debates are worth looking at. In the Senate, liberal Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon and conservative Bob Bennett of Utah, are organizing fairly impressive support for improving health and health care by requiring each side to swallow a big pill by ending employer-based health insurance and giving the money spent by the employer directly to the employee to be used in a heavily regulated universal insurance market place.

According to an analysis by writer Ezra Klein the politics may work out a lot easier if this bipartisan Senate-created plan is put on the agenda instead of one imposed by the winning presidential candidate.

The other new idea comes today from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which has put together a commission headed by Republican Mark McClellan, former head of the FDA and CMS and (a member of the Research!America board of trustees, and Democrat Alice Rivlin, former director of the Office of Management and Budget. The Commission to Build a Healthier America will investigate how factors, such as education, environment, income and housing, shape and affect personal behavioral choices.

The Foundation will have as a starting point a new report from RWJF, “Overcoming Obstacles to Health,” describing the current health profile of Americans and looking specifically at how education, income, race and ethnicity play a role in Americans' health.

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