A Pair of Proposals on Health Care Reform

Article excerpt

Health care, long the domain of the medical and risk management communities, is now a major political football being tossed around the headlines. All sides of the political spectrum agree that the nation's health care system needs reform, but that's where the common ground ends. Two approaches to the problem were presented by an incumbent New England governor and a major conservative think-tank during the recent Northeast Managed Health Care Congress.

Howard Dean's expertise on the subject comes from being governor of Vermont, which boasts a comprehensive state health care systems, and his experience as a physician. His advise was more local than national: Create a single "health care authority" for Vermont and don't wait for Congress or the White House to come to the rescue.

Gov. Dean's proposed health care authority would reaffirm the state's commitment to unviversal health care access while setting standards for the minimum level of coverage. "It will tell the insurance companies what they can charge," he said of the proposed authority. "We will go to them with a plain vanilla benefits package that everyone gets. If they want to add to it, that's their business."

The proposed authority would also implement managed care programs, develop mechanisms to discourage inappropriate or unnecessary medical care and testing and increase efforts to promote good health. The governor was reluctant about giving a single payer free reign of the state, preferring three to five insurers willing to insure all interested consumers and able to negotiate with hospitals and doctors.

The crisis facing the health care system was not the result of a carefully constructed plan gone awry, according to Stuart Butler, director of domestic and economic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D. …