Pundits Offer Last-Minute Tweaks to Looming Health Care Legislation

Before the health care bill passes, columnists have a few revisions to propose

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For months, it wasn't clear there would be health care reform at all. Conservatives rallied against reform, railing against rising costs and so-called "death panels." On the left, there was anger too, as it began to look increasingly likely that the public option would be cut from the health care overhaul to satisfy moderates. Now most commentators say that for better or worse, it looks like Democrats have a good chance of pushing through some kind of legislation. As they try to determine what that reform will look like, some columnists already have a few amendments to the legislation.

  • The Catastrophic Option  Instead of a "public option," New York Times columnist Ross Douthat suggests a government-sponsored insurance plan for everyone that covers only catastrophic care. Douthat says, "it would marry a central conservative insight -- that we'll never control spending so long as Americans are insulated from the true price of their medical care -- to the admirable liberal premise that nobody should go bankrupt paying for life-saving treatment."
  • Bring Back the Wyden Plan  At TrueSlant, Rick Ungar says the best plan for reform has been left off the negotiating table for no good reason. Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, wants to use heath care exchanges to create choice and competition in the market. "The Senator's argument boils down to the idea that by freeing everyone to participate in the health care exchange, employees would be 'liberated' from their employer chosen health care plans and be free to shop for policies they actually want." Ungar says lawmakers should take a second look. "Wyden is not giving up. Turned away by his own committee, the Senator is planning to reintroduce the idea on the floor of the full Senate. As there is no logical basis whatsoever for the Senate to reject Wyden's plan, this should be a debate worth hearing as the Senators argue their lobbyist prepared talking points."
  • Beware "Cost Shifting"  At the San Francisco Chronicle, Debra Saunders is concerned that "cost shifting" in the proposed health care legislation is going to cost a lot more than the White House says it will. "As for proposed limits on what insurers can charge based on age or gender -- again, these schemes don't control costs; they shift costs. And cost shifting is the practice that has led to runaway health care spending in America." The health care overhaul, Saunders argues, should not add to the deficit. "With all the freebies thrown into versions of the package -- with millions of additional people covered, no denials for pre-existing conditions, free checkups and preventive procedures -- ObamaCare can only increase the nation's health care tab."
  • The Stronger the Public Plan, the Better  At The New York Times, the editors aren't convinced by President Obama's triangulating. They say a robust public option is still, "the best way to give consumers more choices, inject more competition into insurance markets, hold down the cost of insurance policies, and save money for the federal budget." They say "the bigger and stronger the better."
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