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How does Daschle fit in?

Kim Morris | December 16, 2008

Virtually everyone familiar with the issues recognizes Senate majority leader Tom Daschle as an expert in health care and a strong choice as the new administration's leader in health care reform. But the next step is not so clear. Daschle's ideas for health care reform, published in the book "Critical" clash with the official health care policy statement recently published on Change.gov and reviewed on this site.

As the new Health and Human Services Secretary, Daschle would be expected to carry out the plans of the Obama administration. But Daschle has his own ideas. Two of the key differences in the Daschle plan vs. the Obama plan are that Daschle would require every person to buy health insurance, a move opposed by Obama. Daschle also proposes making a national high risk health insurance pool subsidized by taxpayers where many people with serious health problems would be required to get their insurance. Obama, on the other hand, proposes blending the highest risks into the existing public and commercial health plans.

Daschle is years ahead of Obama (literally and figuratively) in terms of planning the steps that will be necessary to  build the consensus required for real health care reform. If we assume that the Obama administration's platform is more campaign rhetoric than practical plan of action, then it makes sense for the new administration to bring in Daschle and then stand aside to allow him some room to work.

Daschle already has tentative support from the major health care companies and the AMA but that could be a mixed blessing. Almost any proposal that strengthens and enriches the current system will be opposed by a significant portion of the voters who helped elect Obama in the first place. We can already here the echoes of "That's not change; it's more of the same!" But we learned in 1993 that excluding these powerful groups from planning health care reform measures simply will not work.

Physicians have good reason to support the Daschle plan. Translated into what the plan would look like inside a physician's office, doctors would be able to spend more time with healthier patients and be ensured higher levels of compensation. Chronically ill patients would be more likely to fall under governmental plan which, like Medicare, excuse (actually prohibit) doctors from providing treatment above the government-approved levels. Medicare and similar programs provide a "scape goat' that effectively rations health care among those who are the greatest users of medical services. Unlike commercial insurance that broadly covers "ordinary and necessary care", government plans are far more specific in the treatment that will be approved.

Likewise, health insurers have good reason to back the Daschle plan. The requirement for every person to have health insurance aligns with the America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) proposal that was published earlier this month. The key to this AHIP proposal was the concession that if all Americans are required o carry health insurance then insurance companies agree that they would have no trouble accepting applicants with pre-existing medical conditions. The AHIP proposal was criticized by some, but seems to be warmly welcomed by Daschle. Daschle takes it a step farther by offering to remove some of the biggest claims from the insurance companies and transfer them to the government's tab. 

How will this affect us at MedSave.com? Both Daschle and Obama have been careful to say that any American who has good affordable health insurance - like the plans listed here on MedSave.com - will retain the option to keep the same low cost health insurance. Low cost health insurance, short term medical insurance and supplemental health insurance is not affected by the reform proposals. Obviously this makes us at MedSave.com feel more comfortable and also provides us with a sense of social imperitive to make more Americans aware of these options. Both Obama and Daschle agree that overhauling health care is an economic necessity and a moral imperative. We agree. (And by the way, the Obama team borrowed that catchy phrase directly from Daschle).

Tags : health insurance, obama, daschle, heath care reform

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