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  • Leavitt and Daschle Debate Health Care

    On Tuesday, former HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt debated former Senator (and former Obama nominee for the top HHS post) Tom Daschle on health care reform at The National Press Club (articles summarizing the event here and here, video of portions of the event here , and an interesting blog post here).

    The pair began by touching on areas of agreement in health care reform. They agreed that all Americans should have access to affordable health insurance, and that the current trend of rapid cost increases in health care is unsustainable. They also agreed that investments in health information technology and reforming the payment system to promote “value over volume” were necessary.

    But the discussion quickly turned to areas of disagreement on how to achieve these goals. Leavitt argued that “real reform will require strong government action, but the action needs to focus on organizing, not owning, the system.” “The fundamental question is who in our society will make the difficult decisions regarding our health care? The government won’t make the decisions and cuts that will keep costs under control. Instead, the answer is that we need to create informed consumers that are able to make these difficult decisions themselves.”

    Daschle agreed that “congress can’t manage health care,” but put forward several existing agencies as models for government management of the health care system, including the Federal Reserve Board and the FAA. “These agencies resolve difficult and complex questions outside of Congress,” he said.

    When discussing how to pay for health care reform, Daschle cited tax increases, cuts in federal programs like Medicare and TRICARE (health benefits for military personnel and their families), and modernization (including preventive care, health information technology, and “even some medical malpractice reform”). He even suggested reforming the current tax treatment of health insurance (which gives unlimited tax breaks only for those who get health insurance at the place of work).

    But Leavitt questioned whether Congress would have the stomach to take on health care costs. “They are saying, ‘Let’s deal with access today, and then deal with costs later.’ But how will adding $1.3 trillion in health care reform while expanding Medicaid and driving people from private to public health insurance reduce costs? Where are the pay-for’s in this plan?”

    Disagreement also arose over the issue of creating a public plan. Daschle favored a public plan, saying, “The question is, are we designing a system for insurance companies or a system for the American people? If the latter, a public plan is best. The public plan offers greater choice. Opponents of the public plan are worried that too many people will choose it over their private plan.” Citing a Lewin Group report estimating that 120 million Americans would lose their existing private health insurance under a public plan, Leavitt said a public plan would merely “expand a troublesome entitlement” and is a “Trojan horse being used by ‘Medicare-for-all’ proponents.”

    When asked about the prospects of a health care reform bill making it through Congress by the end of 2009, the former officials also disagreed, with Daschle being more skeptical that any reform bill would pass: “Like during the debate over the Clinton health plan in the 1990s, people are saying that something will pass,” he said. “But nothing passed. I think there is only a 50-50 chance that something will pass [this year],”  he said.

    Leavitt said “the political imperative is too great” at this point for nothing to pass, noting that President Obama and many in Congress had gone out on a limb promising health care reform to their constituents this year.

    “There are three possibilities as I see it,” Leavitt said. “One I call the ‘Big Bang With Details.’ This is a big reform plan that has all the details spelled out in the legislation. I don’t think that will happen. The second is the ‘Big Bang, No Details.’ This is a 30-40 page bill that is essentially titles and chapter headings. It defines an overall direction, but delegates all the hard decisions to HHS or some other bureaucracy. This is especially troublesome because we have no clue what it will become or how to score it. It would likely be several years before we even knew what it was.”

    “The third possibility is an incremental approach,” Leavitt said. “I think this is the most likely scenario. This approach focuses on areas of agreement. It would likely be a sizeable Medicaid expansion, another expansion of SCHIP, some comparative effectiveness, some health information technology, and so on. Afterwards both sides would argue over what they had really passed.”

    Congress will likely debate health care reform bills in June and July, with top Democrats calling for legislation to be passed before Congress breaks for the August recess. If reform is important, President Obama and Members of Congress from both parties should come together and embrace a strategy that bridges these differences.

    Posted in Obamacare [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to Leavitt and Daschle Debate Health Care

    1. Patricia McNaughton, says:

      Until we get the government AND employer out of the equation, Americans will continue to have health-care freedoms stripped away. Their expenditures on our behalf will be used to justify an ever-growing ability to intrude and dictate our personal choices, not just our health care but in every aspect single aspect of our lives.

      Further, nothing proposed so far addresses the root cause of the problem: the complete disconnect between the true costs of health care incurred by the consumer and the costs to both insurance and health care providers. As long as consumers don't pay for their own health care or insurance, this problem will never be resolved.

      Everyone is ignoring a little something called human nature. If I pay for something, I also pay attention to how much I spend. If someone else pays for it, I'm not as concerned and some not at all concerned.

      Let me suggest something.

      No business worth its beans would ever nationally roll-out an untested, unproven and costly new product.

      If we are in a so-called crisis and if we continue as politicians propose, no matter how well intentioned, the crisis will only get worse and more costly and, most important, irreversible.

      What if we instead develop and TEST two, three, four different plans. Private/private (with no employer or government involvement) and public/private in small, demographically diverse test markets throughout the country.

      For once, let's stop and do this right and get this right. Maybe by first identifying what the real problems are, the real solutions can be found. Maybe, just maybe, we'd actually lick this problem and put it behind us once and for all.

      It's possible we'd find that what we really need is better access to catastrophic health, or a new product like diagnostic-testing insurance, or insurance tailored to young families, or something else completely unexpected.

      We must start thinking and looking OUTSIDE the government box for answers.

    2. Pingback: Leavitt and Daschle Debate Health Care » The Foundry | My Health and Lifestyle

    3. Pingback: Leavitt and Daschle Debate Health Care » The Foundry | Health

    4. Merrill B, Las Vegas says:

      I agree with much of what you say Patricia. Unfortunately, Daschle's and Leavitt's debate was really intended to give us a preview of what the Obama Administration will likely end up providing for the American Citizen (and illegal aliens who are here). But the plan that will get the most support from Obama and his cronies will undoubtedly be the most expensive one they can come up with. Right?

    5. Carolyn Troiano, Che says:

      My name is Carolyn Troiano, and I need help going after Obama for a major Free Speech violation. He is violating my First Amendment right to free speech by trying to prevent me from voicing my opinions on a tax-deductible contribution supported internet site.

      If you go to My.BarackObama.com, a website funded by tax-deductible money, you will see how they’ve set up tools and other resources to help people push the Obama agenda forward – the topic du jour is healthcare reform. People are told to create and attend events that are supportive of Obama. This is how they stole the election.

      So to turn the tables, I went on the site and created my own event, a “GIGANTIC TEA PARTY” up on Long Island in my hometown of Merrick.

      I set this up as a “Take Back Our America” event, and spread the WEALTH (Watch Every American Learn about Healthcare reform) like the Tea Parties of late, and included posted a call for all like-minded citizens to join me. All of the information is at my website:


      The Obama webmaster responded by email saying my words were disrespectful, and that they had taken my event off the website.

      The warning stated that this was a one-time warning, and if I did this again, I would have my access to the website taken away.

      So what’s a girl to do? Create another event. This time it’s in Chesterfield, VA, this coming Saturday, June 20th, at my home or in spirit with me, and I made sure there is room for 1 billion people, in case those disgruntled Iranian voters want to revolt and join our cause too.

      I led the charge to taking back America with a simple statement to the President –

      “Mr. Obama, tear down that firewall!”

      That’s my motto, and I’m taking this as far as I possibly can. Ronald Reagan must be turning over in his grave!

      I’m seeking your help to give some visibility to this fight and let the Obama dictatorship know we will not stand idly by while our own tax dollars continue to be squandered on his Socialist agenda.

      So let me know if you can help, and if you have any suggestions for ramping this up and getting all Americans to understand what’s going on here. Most have no clue.

      Thanks for your time and attention!


      Carolyn (McKillop) Troiano

      13613 Blue Heron Circle

      Chesterfield, VA 23838

      804-590-0055 (H)




    6. Non Moronic Republic says:

      Wacko right wingers, get a clue.

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