HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM, REPUBLICAN STYLE.

Politico reports that the Republican party soon will unveil its own universal health insurance proposal to compete with the ones the Democratic candidates have presented. This is exciting. All we know so far is this:

"Republicans are working on a plan that will provide access to all Americans to high quality health insurance, make sure that we increase the quality of insurance that we have in American, and we want to foster a sprit of innovation," said [John] Boehner on "Fox News Sunday." "This is a plan we'll see over the next coming months where we put the patients in charge of their health care."

The "spirit" of innovation might be the secret ingredient which makes this plan different from all the others the conservatives have offered over the last decades, largely consisting of less and less insurance and more and more out-of-pocket costs for the patients as a way of putting the consumers "in charge" of their health care. Medical savings accounts, another popular conservative innovation in this field, are an alternative to insurance, not insurance in themselves, and only the very wealthy can afford to save enough in them for the kinds of expenditures associated with a major health crisis. Of course the very wealthy are the one group who doesn't actually need the kind of buffer the medical savings accounts are planned to create.

This background means that the new proposals will probably be of the same kind: market driven and focused on making sure that it is the patient who worries about how the medical bills will be paid. Market based policies will not be able to deliver affordable and high quality health insurance to the poor. If it is affordable it will cover practically nothing, and if it is high-quality the poor can't afford it.

--J. Goodrich

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