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DAVIS: One health plan is popular
I don’t get it. Two weeks ago, I wrote a column offering advice to Democrats and the White House, saying that they could achieve a broad bipartisan consensus on health care by supporting S. 334, the Healthy Americans Act (HAA), introduced last year by liberal Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and conservative Republican Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah.
Then last week, Sen. Max Baucus, after months of working with the bipartisan “gang of six” Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, introduced a bill that did not attract a single Republican, and more than a few Democratic dissenters.
Yet, as I wrote two weeks ago, the Wyden-Bennett measure already had such Democratic co-sponsors as Sens. Debbie Stabenow (Michigan), Tom Carper (Delaware), Bill Nelson (Florida), Maria Cantwell (Washington) and Dan Inouye (Hawaii); and Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tennessee), who is No. 3 in the Senate leadership; Judd Gregg (New Hampshire), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee; and Mike Crapo (Idaho), a member of Mr. Baucus’ Finance Committee and a Harvard Law graduate. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham was quoted in The Washington Post that he could vote for the HAA.
And what exactly does the HAA accomplish that could possibly attract such broad, bipartisan support from left to right in the U.S. Senate?
• Universal health insurance coverage for every American - the goal of most Democrats since President Harry Truman first tried to introduce a national health care bill more than 60 years ago, including requiring insurance companies to ensure all, regardless of pre-existing conditions or status of the individual.
• Reliance on choice and competition in the private marketplace - core principles of conservatism.
• Immediate deficit neutrality in the first two years, and then surplus revenues in the years thereafter - i.e., reducing the budget deficit - according to a May 1, 2008, letter sent jointly by the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation - co-signed by none other than Peter Orszag, then head of the CBO and now President Obama’s OMB director.
• Cost-containment measures, using tax incentives and disincentives as well as state-based regulations, to squeeze savings out of the wasteful and inflated $2.5 trillion that Americans will spend on health care this year - enough to pay a doctor $200,000 a year to do nothing but care for every seven families in the nation - savings also attested to by the CBO/Joint Tax Committee letter.
Here’s an oversimplified explanation of how the HAA accomplishes all of the above:
• It requires every American to purchase a health insurance policy.
• Any employee whose employer provides health insurance would receive a cash payment equal to the cost of his or her insurance policy (with a comparable tax deduction, so no increased tax liability should result) and from that time on, would be required to use all or part of that extra compensation to purchase his or her health insurance.
• All other uninsured Americans would be required to purchase insurance, but those at or below the poverty level would receive a 100 percent subsidy to pay for all of the premiums, and those at up to 400 percent of the poverty level would receive subsidies on a sliding scale. These subsidies would be paid from a variety of enhanced tax revenues resulting from passage of the HAA.
• All Americans would purchase their insurance from plans listed on state-administered public “Health Agencies” or “exchanges” - with at least one on the public exchange at least as good as the plan available to all federal employees, including members of Congress. And coverage would be mandatory for everyone, including those with pre-existing conditions.
The details are complicated, the core principles are that simple.
About the Author
Why such hatred toward America's freedom of religion?
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