Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Talking Health Care

I've been trying to pull together some resources for comparing Senator Obama's and Senator Clinton's health care reform plans.  First, here are the links to the plans themselves:

All analyses I've read say the key differetiator between the plans is the mandate Senator Clinton places on all individuals to get health insurance; Senator Obama only mandates that children be insured.  Everyone agrees that Senator Clinton's plan will insure more people and cost more than Senator Obama's, though there is little agreement on how many more people or how much more money.  Paul Krugman of the New York Times thinks that Senator Clinton's plan is well worth the added expense; he figures that it will cover many more people at only a slightly higher cost.  Timothy Noah from Slate thinks Hillary's mandate will make her plan unsalable to voters.  The Wall Street Journal agrees with Noah, although I don't expect them to support any health care reform package when it is brought before Congress.

Health08.org has a point-by-point comparison of the plans, which verifies that the mandate is the key differentiator.

With the two plans being so similar, we also have to consider the people who are proposing the reforms and the arguments they will use to achieve their aims.  Senator Obama says that his bipartisan approach will allow him to make changes that that Senator Clinton can't.  While I agree that Obama personally will be more able to reach across the aisle and engage Republicans, I believe that Senator Clinton is the one who is better framing the need for health care reform.  On her website, she emphasizes that her health care plan is good for small business.  I think this will be key to selling any proposals to Congress.  While the need to help the uninsured and underinsured in this country is undeniable, having that be the sole argument for change only allows reforms to be attacked with the "big-government entitlement" label.  Health care reform should be pursued as an economic and global competitiveness issue, for both small and big businesses.  We are losing jobs to overseas employeers, because health care costs here are too expensive.  GM now builds more cars in Ontario, where the unions are much stronger, than in Michigan, because Canada has national health care which makes labor there cheaper.  By enlisting the business community's help to lobby for lower health care costs, either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton could put together a broad coalition to fix our health care system.

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