Unfortunately, that seems to be the choice in 2005. And the people are well aware of that fact. Two recent surveys, one of plain old people like us and another of actual health care experts, highlight where our health care system is really sick, and where the Administration and Republican-controlled Congress are missing the boat. Which of course makes it prime picking for our side.
While our lawmakers are blathering on about malpractice reform and protecting us from those scary Canadian drugs, people want them to focus on lowering the cost of health care and health insurance, ensure Medicare's long-term solvency, expand coverage to the uninsured, and improve the quality and safety of medical care.
More on the flip.
When asked to rank what was most important in health care reform, a whopping 63% cited lowering the costs of health care and health insurance. Fifty-eight percent want to make sure that Medicare is solvent now and in the future, and 57% want to see health coverage expanded to the uninsured. Coming in at number 11 (of 12), with 26% of the vote is tort reform. But the breakdown within these areas is pretty interesting. An equal number of Democrats and Republicans want to see the cost of health care and insurance reduced. When the numbers on expanding coverage to the uninsured are broken down, some other details emerge. A sizeable portion (45%) would be willing to pay more in either taxes or higher insurance premiums to expand coverage to the uninsured. Not too surprising: 59% of Democrats would be willing to pay more, while only 36% of Republicans would. But I bet we could get to that 36%.
There are a few other things the loyal opposition should be paying attention to in this survey: seniors are much more likely to view the Medicare prescription drug "reform" law unfavorably (46%) than favorably (29%); only four percent of those polled had a health savings account, and 53% had never heard of them, and; 75% of the public still wants to get their health insurance through their employer. This says to me that we have a long way to go in trying to sell anything that looks remotely like a single-payer system.
The second survey The Commonwealth Fund Health Care Opinion Leaders Survey shows a remarkable consistency with the Kaiser results. Experts from four health care sectors (academia and research organizations; health care delivery; business, insurance, and other health industry; and government and advocacy groups) were asked to rank their priorities. An astounding 87% of respondents ranked expanding coverage to the uninsured as their top priority. Way down on this list of 12 priorities, coming in at number 8 with 30% of the vote, is malpractice reform.
Here's what Congressional Quarterly laid out as the health care issues the 109th Congress is poised to address (as reported by kaisernetwork.org in their daily health briefing: limiting medical malpractice liability for physicians; reforming the system used to calculate drug prices for Medicaid; address intergovernmental transfers between state and county entities, which critics say overstate the amount of state spending on Medicaid (huh?); and reducing Medicare payments to some health care providers to fund other legislative initiatives (that's going to go over well).
Clearly, the priorities of the Republicans are not the priorities of either the people or the experts. This tells me that it wouldn't hurt Democrats in Congress to be obstructionists when it comes to their health care agenda. By extension, we need to capitalize on the discontent in our senior population to derail Bush's hare-brained Social Security reform choo-choo train.