Next President Must Make Deal on Health Care Reform
The "similarity of the emerging" health care proposals by presidential candidates shows that "a road forward is being paved and a growing number of people from across the political spectrum are on it," according to New York Times guest columnist Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital and a New Yorker staff writer.
According to Gawande, the "road ... follows the lead of European countries ... that provide universal coverage (and more doctors, hospitals and access to primary care) through multiple private insurers while spending less money than we do."
Gawande writes, the "proposals all define basic benefits that insurers must offer without penalty for pre-existing conditions" and provide coverage for preventive care and cost-saving programs to help patients manage chronic diseases.
The plans also "embrace what's been called shared responsibility" -- requiring that individuals obtain health insurance and that businesses provide health benefits to workers or pay into a subsidy fund, Gawande says. He adds, such a system "seems to be our one politically viable approach."
According to Gawande, "attacks are certain to label this as tax-and-spend liberalism and government-controlled health care." The "crucial matter is our reaction as a country when the attacks come," Gawande writes.
"If we as consumers, health professionals and business leaders sit on our hands, unwilling to compromise and defend change, we will be doomed to our sliding global competitiveness and self-defeating system," Gawande says.
He concludes, "The ultimate measure of leadership ... is not the plan" but "the capacity to take that plan and persuade people to find common ground on it. The politician who can is the one we want" (Gawande, New York Times, 5/31).