GOP candidates sparred last night over multiple issues including health care, and predictably, most of the time was spent attacking Governor Romney instead of focusing on the true problem – the fact that health care costs are rising at unsustainable rates. Serious conversations are necessary. As Federal spending continues to rise, particularly among entitlement programs, the idea of controlling costs will become more prevalent. But is the political will there to make the tough decisions?
Former Senator Rick Santorum was one of the few to address the cost issue by offering an important critique of both the Massachusetts plan and the recently passed Affordable Care Act. He argued that while both had good intentions, they focused on providing access instead of focusing on controlling costs. This is an important point to consider because universal coverage does not guarantee access to quality care. And while the program in Massachusetts has wide support within the state, it does not significantly lower costs, the main concern of the opposition.
Representative Michelle Bachman was the only one who highlighted the recent developments with the CLASS Act. It was a timely attack on the Obama Administration, which recently dropped the provision offering long term care insurance to individuals due to fiscal insolvency. Could this be the beginning of a further repeal effort? Expect Congressional Republicans to continue to attack certain pieces of this legislation.
Finally, the latest front runner, Businessman Herman Cain was the only candidate to name a specific piece of legislation which he would be willing to consider. It was H.R. 3400, introduced by Republicans in the House of Representatives back in 2009, as an alternative plan to the health reform legislation advocated by Congressional Democrats and the White House.
This plan, sponsored by 54 Republicans, including Presidential Candidate Michelle Bachman, contains several clauses intending to lower the costs of health care. Reducing medical liability premiums, providing subsidies to insurers, and incentivizing states to set up high risk pools were some of the provisions. There are concerns that there is nothing prohibiting insurers from cherry-picking customers due to pre-existing conditions. In addition, with the cost of the legislation, the Congressional Budget Office has said that it could potentially cost more than the other proposal because of a heavy emphasis on subsidies.
Expect the issue of health care to continue to gain traction in these debates, particularly next fall. It is one of the issues where the two parties contrast, while it remains a major concern for businesses and individuals. For more information on the Republican alternative bill and on theMassachusetts connector, visit the following links, and stay tuned for more commentary on the upcoming 2012 election.