February 13, 2013

Blast From the Past: Battle Over Health Care Plan

What Dickinsonians were talking about on Feb. 10, 1994

The 103rd Congress will soon begin to hear and debate proposals as to what should be done regarding the health care system. The health care system is considered to be top priority for both the Congress and for Clinton. Clinton, and to a lesser degree, the members of Congress, need a viable health care plan to be passed in order to secure their political future.

There seems to be little debate over whether or not a health care plan is needed. As Professor David Strand of the Political Science Department said, “There’s a feeling that something has to be done in this country to reinvigorate fairness.” The debate centers around the extent of the plan and who will pay how much.

Congressman Goodling, the Republican Representative in this district, made clear in an exclusive interview that he feels Clinton’s health care plan is bad for this nation and for its people. Clinton’s plan calls for fairly extensive government regulation, something which Republicans like to argue is “socialization.” Clinton’s plan would, however, provide basic insurance coverage for the approximately 37 million people who are uninsured as well as for the millions of other Americans who are under insured.

The President’s plan calls for the establishment of alliances between insurance companies and the doctors in an effort to control the sky-rocketing cost of health care. This plan asks employers to pay 80 % of the cost with the remaining 20 % to be paid by the employee. The poor and unemployed initially would be covered by Medicare and Medicaid.

Most alliances would offer a large selection of plans so that people would be able to choose the best package for their individual needs. All alliances would have to offer at least one fee-for-service option which would guarantee the individual the right to choose their own doctors.

Much of the controversy surrounding the plan will come from those in Congress who believe that this will hurt small businesses as well as the ability to expand the larger companies. There’s also widespread concern both in Congress and among the population on the whole as to what a national health care plan will do to the quality of health care.

Goodling feels that currently, “we have the envy of the world in terms of health care,” and that the real challenge is come up with a plan that will not sacrifice quality while making it affordable to everyone. Goodling also believes that the President’s plan contains too much government involvement which will ultimately “destroy” the quality of health care.

He and other Republicans have developed an alternative plan that is not nearly as extensive. This alternative plan tries “to get the government involved as little as possible while giving tax breaks to everyone so they can cover themselves in insurance.”

The plan would also increase the number of clinics. These clinics would primarily serve lower income families in an attempt to cut down on the number of unnecessary emergency room visits. What the Republican plan does not include is how to pay for the cost of health care during a person’s last six months of life. These last six months are extremely costly, and Goodling feels the country “isn’t ready to deal with this.”

Goodling also stated that “it would be a tremendous mistake to the existing system upside down. I don’t believe your public is ready to have a czar and seven other people make all the decisions concerning health care in our country.” Clinton, however, believes that the current health care system is “badly broken” and in need of major overhaul.

The public, although deeply divided as to many of the specifics, does seem to feel a deep concern about their ability to pay for health care. The Republican plan would require people to pay for their own health care although some of this would come by means of tax breaks. There’s also a concern that lower income families would still not receive the same quality of health care as the middle and upper classes.

All of these issues will be discussed at length by Congress in the next several months, and the result will most definitely require compromise. Clinton, however, said in his State of the Union address that he would veto any plan that did not guarantee health care for every American. So it then becomes a question of how much of a compromise he is willing to accept and what the cost to both the American people and his political career will be if he chooses not to accept the plan which comes out of Congress.