Frist Shifts Focus to Health Care
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has begun to shift his focus toward an issue "too long slighted in Washington" -- a "fundamental revision of health care" -- as he considers whether to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, Los Angeles Times columnist Ronald Brownstein writes in his "Washington Outlook" column.
Brownstein writes that Frist, a physician who has "interest and expertise on health concerns," has recommended a "comprehensive restructuring of Medicare" through six proposals. According to Brownstein, Frist has proposed "increasing prevention efforts, improving management of chronic diseases and updating information technology."
In addition, Brownstein writes, Frist "wants to apply greater means-testing so that more-affluent seniors pay more for care" and to "tie doctors' compensation to the results they produce for patients." Brownstein adds that Frist has proposed to "allow private insurers to compete more directly with the government in providing health care to seniors."
Beyond Medicare reform, Frist "wants to provide tax credits to help the uninsured buy coverage" and make health insurance more affordable through a "government-backed corporation" that would "assume most of the cost for the most expensive patients," Brownstein writes, adding that Frist also has proposed to reduce restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
Brownstein writes, "On health care, the challenge for all Republicans is to find solutions that express their faith in the free market without unraveling the collective net of public and private social insurance that most Americans have shown that they prize," adding, "Frist has a surgeon's steady hands, but he will need a politician's supple touch to thread that needle" (Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, 3/12).