Three Low Points in the Health Reform Debate

Les Masterson, for HealthLeaders Media , August 26, 2009

When healthcare reform became health insurance reform
Let's be clear here: The reform proposals are about more than just reforming health insurance. Yes, there is the public insurance option that would keep private insurers "honest," but that idea probably won't make it to the final bill. There are other provisions that are also in the mix, such as the creation of insurance cooperatives and stopping insurers from excluding members with pre-existing medical conditions. There are also proposals to impose an individual mandate that would require all Americans to have insurance.

But those provisions are a small part of the larger healthcare reform bills, which also include investments in prevention and wellness, improving quality of care, and revamping the physician payment structure from quantity-based to quality-based. President Barack Obama, however, found that health insurance reform sounds more acceptable to Americans than healthcare reform. The new rhetoric makes the uninformed person think the president is merely going after those big, bad greedy health insurers. This is, in fact, not true. Healthcare reform goes beyond keeping health insurers in line.

Comparing U.S. health reform to socialized programs elsewhere
This one isn't surprising. Republicans know that comparing any new plan to socialism is a winner. But these same people, who are saying they don't want socialized medicine, also trumpet the need to protect Medicare. Medicare is the same program that Republicans bashed 40 years ago as socialized medicine. Now, conservatives—and nearly all Americans—find Medicare sacrosanct.

This year's health debate has also featured reform opponents charging that comparative effectiveness research will lead to rationing. The charge is simply not true, but just planting the seed of doubt is all a health reform opponent needs. Those seeds are growing into weeds that are choking the healthcare reform debate and could ultimately leave us with the same expensive, fractured healthcare system.

Les Masterson is an editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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