The health care reform debate has been a topic in this country for more than 100 years. Although there has been debate over the years involving the public, political parties, and special interests there has been no consensus on how to proceed beyond debate. There has been consensus on some topics that are part of reform such as lower costs or equal access for medical care, but how to achieve those goals has been elusive. This paper will examine the issue of health care reform from the perspective of the major political parties.
The Democratic Party’s preamble statement on their website Demcrats.org states as a first priority in the introduction affordable quality health care coverage for all Americans. This priority of health coverage for all Americans was formulated during the 2008 presidential campaign and became a rallying point for the Democratic Party’s nominee Barack Obama. The Democrats went on to win the White House and both houses of Congress thereby giving them effective control of government from both a legislative and executive perspective. Forces contributing to the Democrats majorities included young Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics, liberal whites, women, and the elderly. One of the prime concerns was health care during the campaign and Committees of Congress finally produced bills out of committees that reflected the concerns of the coalition of forces that put the party in power.
The Finance Committees Chairman Max Baucus released his committees work on health care reform and proposed a $856 billion bill over 10 years that opted for cooperatives to help reduce cost instead of a public option (U.S. News, 2009).
Baucas committee proposals bars illegal immigrants from benefits while upholding existing state and federal laws restricting funds for abortions. Key provisions of the Baucus Finance bill would have no mandates on employers, but individuals would be fined up to $950, and families could be hit for $3,800 if they do not buy insurance (U.S. News, 2009).
The plan is paid for by raising some $239 billion in taxes on “Cadillac” health benefit plans, and by savings from existing programs like Medicare. Insurers would have to pay excise taxes on plans for individuals worth more than $8,000, and more than $21,000 for couples. The bill are also contains $13 billion in new fees. To help people pay, there would be tax credits for folks earning up to 300% of the poverty level, or about $66,000 for a family. There would also be credits for people who pay more than 13% of their income on insurance. (U.S. News, 2009).
The Republicans as a minority in both the house and senate do not have the votes to produce bills out of committee. However, their votes or lack of votes for the Democratic plan that cleared committees reflects the parties different approach to health care reform. On the Republicans website rnc.org they have outlined proposals for their vision of health care reform. The party wants to improve quality of care and lower costs while delivering control of health coverage to families and individuals, advance a variety of targeted reforms to improve the quality of care, lower costs, and help Americans men, women, and children live longer, and healthier lives (rnc.org, n.d.).
How this goal would be achieved is not explained and does not have to be considering the party does not have enough votes to advance particular proposals anyhow. The party also states they wish to prevent disease and end the sick care system by focusing on chronic diseases which according to their platform are in many cases preventable conditions that are driving up health care costs, consuming three of every four health care dollars. Reduce demand for medical care by fostering personal responsibility within a culture of wellness, while increasing access to preventive services, including improved nutrition, and breakthrough medications that keep people healthy and out of the hospital. To reduce the incidence of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke, republicans call for a national grassroots campaign against obesity, especially among children. The party calls for continuation of efforts to decrease use of tobacco, especially among the young (rnc.org, n.d.).
The republicans platform on health care reforms also says a culture of wellness needs to include the treatment of mental health conditions. We believe all Americans should have access to affordable, quality health care, including individuals struggling with mental illness. For this reason, we believe in the importance of mental health care being treated equally with physical health care (rnc.org, n.d.).
Clear information about health care empowers patients. It lets consumers make better decisions about where to spend their health care dollars, thereby fostering competition, and lowering costs. Patients must have information to make sound decisions about their health care providers, hospitals, and insurance companies (rnc.org, n.d.).
Another theme the republicans have given voice to is malpractice reform within the health care system. The party has long advocated that doctors malpractice insurance is extremely high and costly.
The republican platform says every patient must have access to legal remedies for malpractice, but merit less lawsuits drive up insurance rates to outrageous levels and ultimately drive up the number of uninsured. Frivolous lawsuits also drive up the cost of health care as health care providers are forced to practice defensive medicine, such as ordering unnecessary tests. Many leave their practices rather than deal with the current system. This emergency demands medical liability reform (rnc.org, n.d.).
And finally republican proposals for health care reform states a state-regulated national market for health insurance would mean more competition, more choice, and lower costs. Families as well as fraternal societies, churches, and community groups, and small employers should be able to purchase policies across state lines. The best practices and lowest prices should be available in every state. Republicans call upon state legislators carefully to consider the cost of medical mandates, and salute those republican governors who are leading the way in demonstrating ways to provide affordable health care options (rnc.org, n.d.).
The Democratic party’s proposals will be voted upon and have a chance to reach the president’s desk in the near future. Considering the long and sometimes bitter debates over the years regarding health care proposals the fact that a bill would even advance to the president’s desk almost guarantees his signature. Republicans will only have a chance to vote no and voice their displeasure after hoping to add amendments to the health bill which requires majority votes of which they do not have. The public will be able to vote their pleasure or dissatisfaction in 2010 when congressional elections are held and the final verdict on lawmakers will be witnessed.
Democrats.org, (n.d.), The Democratic Party preamble on health care, Retrieved on September 21, 2009 from www.democrats.org.
RNC. Org, (n.d.), The Republican Party health care reform proposals, Retrieved on September 21, 2009
U.S. News.com, (September 21, 2009), Finance Committee prepares to Debate Baucus’s health care plan, Retrieved on September 21, 2009.