Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s Washington Post op-ed shows that she’s studied the focus groups and tracking polls on health care: Just beat up on health insurance companies enough, and you can get Americans to accept a thousand plus pages of legislation that would do just about anything. And then, make sure to tell Americans not to focus on what the legislation actually says. She flat-out writes: “we can’t let the details distract us…” Just trust us. We are from Washington. We are going to rearrange the entire health system.
If it were a national economy, our health system would be the sixth largest economy in the world – larger than Britain’s entire economy. And remember, the guys who are rewriting our health care are the same people who not only grossly miscalculated the cost of Cash for Clunkers but are now hard-pressed to explain the legislation for that program. And it merely gives away money rather than affecting potentially life-or-death decisions. Ah, but let’s not be bothered with such details when we could be bashing health insurers.
But regarding health insurance, as Shakespeare wrote, “The lady doth protest too much.” There is actually broad bipartisan support for prudent steps to build a better infrastructure for health insurance. Even health insurers agree. But rather than work across the aisle, and with states, to fix the problems with solutions that everyone can agree on, Secretary Sebelius and Congressional leaders are using the straw man of faceless insurers to surreptitiously undermine insurance that most Americans are happy with.
There are two basic features that almost everyone agrees needs to be fixed. First, you can’t insure someone in a conventional way when that person is a known huge financial risk. That’s why a teenager who has a fender-bender or wreck every month can’t get an affordable auto policy – or maybe one at all. And it’s why someone with a costly medical problem often can’t simply phone up and get an affordable policy. That’s not because of evildoers at Blue Cross. It’s about dealing with high-risk individuals.
Second, because we have a tax system that ties insurance to the workplace, it means every job change or layoff can mean losing your insurance.
We at Heritage have laid out simple bipartisan solutions to these problems months ago. The solution is for states to work with insurers to develop ways to spread the costs of sicker Americans rather than denying them insurance, such as through high risk pools, reinsurance, and risk-adjustment systems. The feds need to give states the freedom to do that. As a former governor, Secretary Sebelius knows this. And it means providing similar federal tax breaks to Americans without employers, who don’t have employer-sponsored insurance, to provide them the same opportunities as those who do. This is not rocket science, and doesn’t take a thousand pages of legislation.
So let’s slow down, take a deep breath, and take sensible steps rather than disguising a radical, ideological rewrite of our health system with a populist campaign against health insurers