Sunday, March 15, 2009

Many Businesses Calling For Health Insurance Reform

A Reuters article by Donna Smith reports that businesses throughout America are in favor of some type of health insurance reform. Employers claim that they are at a disadvantage globally; they typically have to provide health insurance to their employees (while not legally required, it's a generally accepted inevitability for most large employers), as opposed to most industrialized nations that provide government-subsidized health care. Major economic competitors (United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, France, and Germany) were found to spend 63 cents for every $1 America spends on health care, while fast-developing economies like China, India, and Brazil spend only 15 cents per dollar.

The Business Roundtable, a consortium of the largest U.S. companies, worries that American companies will be less able to survive the recession as a result of these disparities in health care costs. They also point to evidence that employees in the United States are less healthy than those in other nations! Unhealthier employees could end up being less efficient.

Recommendations by the group are similar some proposed by the Barack Obama administration, including health insurance mandates and the use of technology to increase efficiency and decrease the cost of care. The Business Roundtable opposes dominant government-run health insurance plans, but supports some public aid for those unable to afford insurance.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Obama Picks Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius The Associated Press' Richard Alonzo-Zaldivar reports that President Barack Obama has chosen Kansas Governor and Democrat Kathleen Sebelius as his Secretary of Health and Human Services. She is a former state insurance commissioner who is knowledgeable about the complexities surrounding health care and insurance issues and is known for her ability to reach across the aisle to accomplish goals. 

However, she does not have as many connections in Congress as former nominee Tom Daschle. As a result, Obama is also planning to name a seperate person as the head of a White House health care reform department; Daschle was set to fill both posts simultaneously. She also has to be confirmed by Congress, which seems likely due to the support she has recieved from both consumer advocates and the health insurance industry.

HHS is responsible for both federal government-sponsored health care programs, Medicare and Medicaid. Part of Sebelius' job will be to solve the problem of Medicare's dwindling finances and inefficiency while still expanding health care coverage to more Americans.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Daschle: Too Close to Health Care Industry?

Tom Daschle, the Obama administration's nominee for secretary of health and human services, has ties to the health care industry he is trying to reform, says an editorial in the New York Times. He is knowledgeable and has written a book about the topic. Many former senators have used their experience and clout in Congress to work as an advisor in the private sector.

Despite not being a registered lobbyist, he has been paid for policy advice by UnitedHealth Group. As a Mayo Clinic trustee, the former Senate majority leader opposed a federal loan that would locate a railroad near their headquarters (it was later rejected). In addition, his speaking engagements after leaving the Senate have included appearances in front of pharmacy boards and health insurance plans.

While there is no indication that these past connections would bias his decisions, the Times believes Daschle is too close to the health insurance industry to be an effective leader on the health care issues promoted by the administration, including the expansion of universal health care coverage.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Daschle: Obama's Learned From Clinton's Mistakes

Kevin Freking from the Associated Press recently wrote that newly appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services (and leader of the Transition's Health Policy Team) Tom Daschle is certain that President-Elect Barack Obama will be more successful in enacting health care reform than Bill Clinton was 15 years ago. Clinton's infamous failure in ensuring affordable health insurance for all Americans has been blamed on procrastination that wasted momentum and allowed other issues to distract from health care issues.

According to Kevin and Daschle, another flaw of the Clinton attempt at universal coverage was its secrecy. This time around, the Obama administration is asking for the American public's experiences with their health insurance. The transition team is encouraging people to hold health care community discussions throughout the country later this month to gather opinions.

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