Drawing Unfortunate Lines In The Sand

For those of us who strongly want a good health reform bill to become law this year, it was dispiriting to say the least to hear a member of Congress say yesterday that as many as 100 House “progressives” — more than enough to stop legislation from passing — will vote against any bill that does not include a government-run health insurance plan

I’ll say once again that the government option controversy is taking up so much space in this debate that we’re losing sight of the other essential objectives of health reform.  We need legislation that will increase access to health coverage and that will incentivize care coordination between providers.  We need to align health care payments with quality and value.  We need to find ways to use comparative effectiveness as a tool to improve clinical performance.  These are issues that will affect every American patient and health care consumer, but they’re not getting the attention they deserve.


President Obama said at one of his recent town hall meetings that the government option is just a “small sliver” of the health reform debate.  HHS Secretary Sebelius said the Administration, while it still prefers a government option, needs to be open to other workable coverage alternatives.  Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, one of the original architects of the Obama health reform approach, said publicly that it would be wrong to let the arguments over the government option stop a health reform bill from being enacted.

When policy leaders go on TV and say you can’t have health reform without a public option, that’s akin to saying it’s ok to throw away all of the benefits of health reform if we can’t increase the power of the federal government in the health coverage marketplace.  I think I’m safe in saying that the American people don’t share that sense of priorities.