Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A national healthcare reform primer


Most people with health insurance say they like what they have. They trust their doctors, and they are fearful of any change in their policy. Many of the 47 million uninsured people in this country don't go to the doctor even if they need to because they figure they can't afford it. They skimp on medications or skip them entirely. President Obama has said that he and Congress will make both groups happy by cutting costs for those who have coverage and by bringing quality care to those who currently have no insurance. It's a tremendous challenge. And the goal, if accomplished, will affect every American.

On Thursday, Obama's push to expand healthcare coverage began in earnest, with the announcement of his plan to create a $634-billion fund to do just that. The amount was described as a down payment over 10 years; the final price tag would be even larger, perhaps $2 trillion or more. The president's strategy is starkly different from the approach by the Clinton administration in 1993, when it corralled hundreds of experts and staff people to produce a detailed plan more than 1,000 pages long. The Clinton effort failed, despite Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. Obama's approach is this: Give me a bunch of money, and we'll figure out the details later how we are going to manage this thing.
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