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Former McCain Advisor Doug Holtz-Eakin Calls for Bipartisanship in Health Care Reform

May 18th, 2009 . by economistmom

It’s uplifting to follow former campaign advisors after they leave the campaign trail.  McCain campaign economic advisor Doug Holtz-Eakin (also former director of the Congressional Budget Office and former chief economist for the Bush Administration’s Council of Economic Advisers) is a case in point.  Now Doug is free to say what he really thinks is necessary to come up with wise fiscal policies (in this case, in health care reform): working with the other side, not against them.  His policy paper contains lots of good ideas that most economists (whether Ds or Rs) agree on, such as engaging in comparative effectiveness studies and sharply reducing the tax exclusion for employer-provided health care (which is the largest tax expenditure in the federal budget).  In his conclusion, Doug argues that now the politicians need to come together on ideas like these just like the economists (who are no longer working on campaigns) have:

Republicans should work with Democrats to demonstrate bipartisanship of the outcome at every stage. When a bill is considered in committee, at least one prominent Republican should be willing to vouch that the bill, while perhaps not perfect, represents the kind of compromise that bipartisan efforts require. If not, Republicans should depart the process.

The strategy should involve engagement with all stakeholders, especially the states. States have made numerous efforts at significant reform. “Blue” states such as Massachusetts and “red” states like Utah have passed bipartisan reform. The agreement of these stakeholders will raise the legitimacy of any federal reform as well as avoid undercutting their own efforts.

Each side should be permitted a key objective at the outset. Republicans should veto any new federal government insurance plan and demand fiscally responsible reforms to existing programs. In return, they should acknowledge the need to expand coverage in the near term and include a path to broad coverage.

The United States is in need of deep reforms to the health-care sector of its economy: it spends too much, covers too few people, and gets too little for the money. Bipartisan reforms that stress a reformed delivery system, better value in care, respect for state-level reform efforts, more efficient insurance markets, and better tools can address the deep problems of our health-care system in a fiscally responsible way. These reforms should be in the interest of Democrats and Republicans alike.

One Response to “Former McCain Advisor Doug Holtz-Eakin Calls for Bipartisanship in Health Care Reform”

  1. comment number 1 by: Anandakos

    We can all give Mr. Holt-Eakins props for bloviating about how wonderful bi-partisanship is, but paragraph three shows his true colors: he wants to give the Republicans a “veto” over “any new federal government insurance plan”. Well whoop-te-doo! A great “bi-partisan” guy that Doug.

    If there is ANYTHING that will test the proposition that our current system has too much bureaucracy and profiteering, it would be to offer a Federal alternative program. That program might well be managed by a for-profit administrator, but NOT with the sort of perverse incentives to make money by killing people that the current system includes.

    I would say overall that the regional Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans are the least rapacious that way, mostly because they started out owned by the care providers. They’re not charities by any means, but most doctors really do care about their patients’ welfare. So the plans are not as cold blooded as the pure profiteers like “Health”South and UHC.

    So I’d be fine with the regional BC’s doing the processing of the paperwork for a per visit charge if they want the business. That would prevent the development of a significant body of Federal workers who would resist shutting down the program should it prove to be less efficient than private ones.

    Of course, I don’t believe for one minute that it would be less efficient. The only stockholders to be rewarded would be the taxpayer/patients who had opted into the new plan.

    The reason that the private insurers want to strangle the baby in the cradle is that what WILL happen is that their stupendous greed and rapacity will be exposed, and everyone with half a brain will sign on to the new public plan. Sayonara Richard Scrushy.