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Healing U.S. Healthcare

With the onset of the global economic crisis, some experts feared health reform would be knocked off the incoming administration's agenda, but instead interest has intensified. "Many people say the government cannot afford a big investment in health care," writes Jonathan Gruber, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "But this represents a false choice, because health care reform is good for our economy." (NYT) President-elect Barack Obama agrees, noting in early December that health care "is part of the emergency," and health care reform has to be woven into the overall economic recovery plan (Atlanta Journal-Constitution). The stimulus proposal currently being discussed includes government aid for health care (NYTimes) costs to employers, workers, and states.

Health care reform discussions focus largely on improving access and lowering costs. Obama's health care plan would create a public-sponsored insurance plan similar to the one provided by the government to members of Congress. It targets individual buyers and small businesses, two segments that have had trouble affording private insurance. Nearly 16 percent of the U.S. population has no health coverage. Insurance companies have balked at the public insurance plan, saying it would underpay doctors like other government health plans and shift costs to private insurers (NYT). Instead, the insurance industry wants the government to mandate that everyone must have health insurance in exchange for a pledge not to refuse coverage regardless of health status. Obama's plan would mandate the industry cover everyone without requiring that everyone obtain insurance. That could allow some people to wait until they are sick before buying, the industry argues.

The value of rationalizing the U.S. health care sector has been accepted for some time as an...

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