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.