Opinion

Beyond Obamacare: 5 opinions on health care reform

Health care reform remains a contentious issue in the United States. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of President Obama's health-care law, the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. But some Republicans, like presidential candidate Mitt Romney, hope to repeal the law under the next Congress. Meanwhile, Americans spend a higher percentage of GDP on health care than other advanced nations, for care that many argue isn't as good.

Here, we've excerpted some of the most compelling opinions about US health care that have run on our pages – from the debate over Obamacare, to cost, to health literacy, to finding common ground. Writers explore five key aspects of health-care reform.

1. Medicare, Obamacare future? Snip, snip, snip

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    Dr. Sonia Nagda puts on a pin supporting the health-care reform law known as Obamacare as she and other health-care professionals gather in front of the Supreme Court in Washington on March 26, where the court began hearings on the health-care law.
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Former Monitor economics reporter and columnist David R. Francis urges: 

Congress is going to have to tackle rising health-care costs in Medicare and “Obamacare.” House Republicans can try to repeal Obamacare or starve it for funds. Democrats can beat back such attempts. But the laws of economics still rule.

Francis notes that health-care spending in the United States is “more than twice as costly as what other advanced nations spend as a share of GDP. Yet America’s average life expectancy is lower and it’s advancing more slowly.” He says that the high cost “weakens America’s international competitiveness.” He wants lawmakers to address cost controls, but says “The issue is how.”

The health-care law passed last year was billed as a cost-cutter.... The one reform Congress considered that really could have begun to change the cost equation – a so-called “public option” where government insurance would compete with the private sector – was dropped.

For those who equate the new health-care law with a “government takeover,” Francis explains: 

The fact is that the health-care industry – physicians, nurses, hospitals, drug companies, clinics, insurance companies, etc. – remains in private hands though the government pays some of the bills. But competition for clients has “not worked” to cut costs, [Wendell Potter, a former public relations manager for major health insurance company CIGNA] says....

Potter charges that the health-care industry has deliberately tried to frighten Americans away from government efforts to cut costs.... The reform law includes pilot projects aimed at shrinking medical costs, he notes. 

Francis says Potter admits cutting costs is “easier said than done,” but offers some suggestions:

Trimming costs in any substantive way would include cutting incomes of medical professionals (who are paid significantly more than their counterparts in other nations), drug-company executives (who charge US patients more for drugs than patients in other countries), and health-insurance executives.

David R. Francis is a former Monitor economics reporter and columnist. 

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