Health reform possible even in slowing economy.
ARLINGTON,, Va. -- Health care reform can be achieved even in difficult economic times, several speakers said at the annual meeting of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
"I think past history shows us that major social initiatives do happen exactly at a time of major economic crisis," said Dr. David U. Himmelstein of the department of medicine at Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School (HMS) is one of the graduate schools of Harvard University. It is a prestigious American medical school located in the Longwood Medical Area of the Mission Hill neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. , Boston, and cofounder of Physicians for a National Health Program, a group that advocates for a single-payer health care Single-payer health care is an American term describing the payment for doctors, hospitals and other providers for health care from a single fund. The Canadian health care system and Medicare in the U.S. for the elderly are single-payer systems. system. "The New Deal is the outstanding ex-ample of that. We're facing a period where our country can't afford the health care system we have at present, and the pain is broadening far beyond the poor into the middle classes ....That's the condition for political change."
Dr. Himmelstein added, however, that the change probably will not come from Washington. "Political leadership has become the ultimate oxymoron. Demand from outside Washington can actually move this country as well. We had a charismatic president [John H Kennedy] elected in 1960 who did not have very bold social programs that he proposed, yet he triggered a very broad outpouring of sentiment that succeeded in passing major social initiatives."
Karen Davis For others with the same name see Karen Davis (disambiguation).
Karen Davis is the president and founder of United Poultry Concerns, Inc., which she founded in 1990 as a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl and , Ph.D., president of the Commonwealth Fund, a health policy research organization in New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of , noted that during hard economic times, "people really get worried about health concerns, so the demand for their political leaders to do something about it grows whenever the economy tanks." However, states are less able to meet those increased demands "because sales tax sales tax, levy on the sale of goods or services, generally calculated as a percentage of the selling price, and sometimes called a purchase tax. It is usually collected in the form of an extra charge by the retailer, who remits the tax to the government. revenues go down and unemployment compensation costs go up."
During the current downturn, federal lawmakers decided to give people tax rebates, but another way to stimulate the economy would have been to invest in the health sector, Dr. Davis said. "Those are good jobs."
She criticized the Bush administration's decision to limit funding for the State Children's Health Children's Health Definition
Children's health encompasses the physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being of children from infancy through adolescence. Insurance Program and other programs funded by the states and the federal government during this period. "It was the wrong response to the recession," she said. "We ought to have a countercyclical matching rate built into those programs, so that when the economy tanks, the federal government could pay more of the costs," reducing the burden on states.
Julie Barnes, deputy director of the health policy program at the New America Foundation The New America Foundation is a non-profit public policy institute and think tank located in Washington, D.C. that promotes innovative political solutions transcending conventional party lines -- what they call radical centrist politics. , a nonpartisan Washington think tank, agreed that reform is possible during a downturn. Although the slowing economy is going to affect individuals the most, "employers and businesses are in an excellent position to fix it," she said.
Although it might be a scary idea, "what if we took employers out of the health care benefit business and pooled individuals instead?" she suggested. Employers "would have more money because suddenly [they] don't have [health care] tax credits for employers, and the federal government gets back all that money that they're giving to employers right now. And wages can go up."
Tom Miller, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy research organization in Washington, was less hopeful about the prospect of reform. "I'm an optimist--I think it's always dark before it gets really dark, but then it gets lighter," said Mr. Miller, who favors a free-market approach to health care. "In the short term, I wouldn't expect a lot of moving around. ... We're not going to have any mandate after 2 years of thrashing around debate in Congress. We're going to get some marginal incentives that can provide a little additional assistance so some folks can get some more care."
He added, however, that Congress "is going to rewrite a good bit of the tax code in the next few years, and health care is going to get less in tax subsidies than it did before. As a result of that, we may rationalize the approach to tax financing of care."
BY JOYCE FRIEDEN Senior Editor