Picking A Plan

William Galston advocates for HAA:

The strategic question now before the Congress is whether this year's legislation will proceed on a bipartisan or Democrats-only basis. Early battles over the stimulus package and the budget have convinced many Democrats that cooperation with Republicans is impossible--or possible only on terms that amount to surrender of key hopes and core principles.

Before framing the health care debate in these terms, however, Democratic leaders should take another look at the Wyden-Bennett "Healthy Americans Act," the only truly bipartisan proposal on offer.

 Sponsored by six Republican and eight Democratic senators (including liberals like Dan Inouye, Debbie Stabenow, and Jeff Merkley), the HAA would create a centrally financed, publicly regulated private market in health insurance. There's much else to recommend it: Public standards would ensure that all Americans enjoy coverage at least equal to what members of Congress now enjoy. Employers would terminate their existing coverage and pay the equivalent to their workers in increased wages. They would also be required to pay an assessment per worker of between two and 25 percent of the national average premium for the basic insurance package.Workers would be given a new health premium tax deduction so that wage gains would not increase their income taxes. And premiums for those at or below the poverty level would be fully subsidized, while individuals and families with incomes between 100 and 400 percent of poverty would receive subsidies on a sliding scale.