The macro health economics of the US government and its attempts to control health care is a huge political issue. The American public pays for health care on a regular basis and it should be free at the point of use for everyone. Yet as I have outlined in a recent report, The Federal Role in Health Care Policy, the US Government's role is limited because its ability to set prices and influence decisions about insurance and health care are largely under the control of private health insurers and companies.
The Health Care Reform bill passed by the House last month seeks to change this balance. Its main goal is to make health insurance available to everyone and to make health care more affordable for those who can't afford it. The bill, however, does not do this by imposing an outright ban on premiums. Rather, it seeks to regulate health insurers to protect their most profitable investment.
Because of this inherent conflict of interest, Health Insurance industry reform is an area that is fraught with controversy. Private health insurers have strong political connections and influence and are well represented in Congress. On the other hand, there are a number of groups that are funded by taxpayers and serve the public interest that seek to protect the health insurance industry. These groups include consumer advocates, labor unions and even the government itself.
As a result, the public policy debate about health care reform has become incredibly polarized. While health insurance reform is a great idea, the political ramifications of the legislation are worrisome. The political class, including Congressmen, Senate Democrats and Presidential hopefuls are fighting over the best approach to reform. In the end, most elected officials are likely to support health insurance reform that limits health insurance premium increases and requires insurers to give consumers better quality care.
When health care reform comes up for a vote in Congress, the only sure thing is that there will be an enormous amount of lobbying and campaign donations. With so many elected officials and influential special interests looking out for themselves, there is little chance that the health care reform legislation will achieve anything positive for the average American.
As a policy analyst I am particularly concerned that the political leadership of the United States is too focused on macro health economics and the limited benefits that the legislation will bring. This focus is leading to a policy that is ineffective and ineffectual.