Conservative Alliance Outlines 6 Deal-Killers for National Health Reform
Washington, April 1, 2009
--Medical costs are rising too fast, the quality of
service is uneven and too many people have difficulty getting or
keeping insurance coverage. Both left and right agree on the need
to reform the American health care system. But not all agree on the
best way to address these problems.
Today, the Health Policy Consensus Group, a coalition of experts
from market-oriented think tanks, released a statement identifying what they consider six
policy deal-breakers-policies that, if included in health
reform legislation expected this year, would force conservative
organizations to oppose it.
The statement identifies what Robert Moffit, director of The
Heritage Foundation's Center for Health Policy Studies, called
"the Six Shalt-Nots" of health reform. All appear in President
Obama's health plan, as well as several other proposals put
together by congressional leadership. Characterizing them as
"flawed prescriptions for radical change [that] should not be
accepted as part of any serious and sustainable health reform
proposal," the group cites the following six provisions:
- A new government-sponsored health insurance plan. The
government would inevitably use its regulatory, pricing and taxing
authority to favor its plan, the Consensus Group writes. A
government plan could artificially under-price private plans,
driving them out of this one-sided "marketplace" and leaving
consumers with no coverage alternatives.
- A move to force employers to provide health insurance.
"It's a political certainty that any new health insurance tax
will be set lower than the current levels at which employers now
fund coverage," the experts say. That would entice many to transfer
their employees' insurance coverage to the mercies of the new
- A uniform, government-defined package of benefits. When
insurance benefits are determined politically rather than by what
individuals and families want in the marketplace, the benefits
package expands and costs explode. Workers would pay for this more
expensive coverage through lower wages, lost jobs, higher taxes,
and lower-value health care, the panel says.
- A mandate that individuals must purchase
insurance. Sweeping government mandates create a conflict
between escalating costs, limited resources and the false guarantee
of rich coverage, often triggering price and supply controls.
Positive incentives can dramatically expand coverage without
resorting to a mandate. To make the mandate work, the government
would have to impose binding penalties on individuals who don't
- A National Health Insurance Exchange that extends federal
regulatory powers over private insurance."This would steamroll
over private choice and patient preferences by providing a vehicle
to extend sweeping federal regulation into virtually every corner
of our health sector," the experts warn. This would reduce choice
for patients and discourage or prohibit innovation and flexibility
in health insurance offerings that today are helping many companies
and families balance their health costs with other needs.
- Federal interference in the practice of medicine
through a federal health board, comparative effectiveness review or
other government intrusions into medical decision-making. The
clear and present danger is that any centralized health board will
use the cover of comparative effectiveness findings to meet
budgetary bottom lines, at the expense of patients' medical needs
and personal preferences. This is a particular danger to the health
of people who suffer from rare conditions or who need access to
specific medicines and personalized treatments but who may lack the
political power to influence the reviewers' decisions.
Because of these "six fatal flaws," Moffit said, "the Consensus
Group believes that the industrial age, top-down proposals put
forth by the administration and congressional leaders would
undermine choice, competition and innovation in our health care
system, rather than improve it."
The group is comprised of health policy experts from the
American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Medicine in the
Public Interest, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Galen
Institute, The Heritage Foundation, the Independence Institute, the
Institute for Policy Innovation, the Institute for Research on the
Economics of Taxation, the National Center for Policy Analysis, the
Pacific Research Institute. The members insist that health reforms
can and must expand personal freedom and improve the quality of
American medical care through competition and innovation.
The statement notes that President Barack Obama has articulated
much the same goals. During the campaign he pledged: "If you've got
health care already, you can keep your plan if you are satisfied
with it. You can keep your choice of doctor."
Echoing the group statement, Moffit added, "We believe a better
functioning, more competitive and transparent marketplace would
cover more people and deliver the higher-value care Americans
To access the entire statement, go to www.galen.org/