The Hill Features Analysis of Policies To Boost Access To Care
The Hill on Wednesday features a special section on health care, including articles and opinion pieces about the Medicare reform bills (HR 1 and S1), malpractice reform and other health policy initiatives. Summaries of the features appear below.
- "A Better Drug Benefit": The addition of a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, although "one of the least controversial" part of the bills, represents "a tortured policy that may be unworkable in practice," Jeff Lemieux, executive director of Centrists.org and senior economist with the Progressive Policy Institute, writes in an analysis article. Congress should "back up and reconsider" the issue, including considering "a zero-premium catastrophic plan" and a "switch from a drug entitlement to a defined contribution," Lemieux writes (Lemieux, The Hill, 10/1).
- "Bringing Medicare Into the 21st Century": A "compromise is within reach" to pass legislation that would "combine the competitive forces of the free-market system into the government-run Medicare program," Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), chair of the Finance Committee and a member of the conference committee working to reconcile the bills, writes in an opinion piece. Medicare should "offer better benefits, competitive choices, protection from high out-of-pocket health care costs, equity for all 50 states and efficiencies that enhance quality of care and protect taxpayers," Grassley writes (Grassley, The Hill, 10/1).
- "Hispanic Health Care Needs Bill's Boost": In order to "end the neglect of decades past," Congress should pass the Hispanic Health Improvement Act of 2003 (HR 2258), Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas) writes in an opinion piece. The bill would expand health coverage, improve access to and affordability of care, reduce health disparities and strengthen the health care workforce, according to Rodriguez (Rodriguez, The Hill, 10/1).
- "Homosexual Couples Also Deserve Benefits": Gay and lesbian couples and families face a "more challenging" health care situation, as partners often are not eligible for employer-sponsored health benefits, not covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act and not eligible for COBRA benefits, Winnie Stachelberg, political director for the Human Rights Campaign, writes in an opinion piece. "In the absence of civil marriage protections," Congress should pass legislation to allow same-sex partners access to health benefits, Stachelberg concludes (Stachelberg, The Hill, 10/1).
- "Let's Move Ahead on Border-Area Health": Congress should pass the Border Health Security Act of 2003 (S 1447), which would allocate more federal funding to the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission to pursue health care improvements, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), writes in an opinion piece. The measure is needed because the U.S.-Mexico border area has "the highest percentage of uninsured residents in the country," has higher-than-average disease rates and lacks a good health care infrastructure, according to Bingaman (Bingaman, The Hill, 10/1).
- "Medical Liability Report Riles Doctors": U.S. physicians are "up in arms" after a recent General Accounting Office report found that there is no causal link between increasing medical malpractice insurance rates and impeded access to care, The Hill reports. The American Medical Association and other doctors' groups support a House-passed bill (HR 5) that would limit noneconomic damage awards in medical malpractice lawsuits in an effort to reduce rising insurance premiums. However, the bill was removed from the Senate calendar over the summer because it did not have enough support to break a threatened filibuster, The Hill reports (Halliday, The Hill, 10/1).
- "Medicare Still a Good Deal for Seniors": Although "[n]aysayers will always claim that private health care is more efficient," Medicare spends less on administrative costs than private health plans, and 90% of beneficiaries report satisfaction with their health coverage, Hill staff writer Abraham Genauer writes in an opinion piece (Genauer, The Hill, 10/1).
- "PhRMA Tops Health Groups With Most Pull on Hill": Michael Heaney, a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago and a fellow at the American Political Science Association's Centennial Center, in April and July conducted interviews with 95 congressional staff members to rank 171 interest groups in terms of their influence on the Medicare legislation. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the American Medical Association and AARP were the top three most influential groups, Heaney writes. Although "money plays an enormous role" in creating influence, smaller groups can organize grassroots coalitions to "counteract the push of their larger, wealthy opponents," Heaney concludes (Heaney, The Hill, 10/1).
- "Women's Health Needs a Greater Commitment": The Women's Health Office Act (S 1304) -- which would create Offices of Women's Health at five federal agencies and establish an information clearinghouse on women's health at the HHS women's health office -- is a "crucial step in ensuring that research into women's health will continue to receive the attention it requires," Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) writes in an opinion piece (Snowe, The Hill, 10/1).