Health Overhaul Partisanship Hit

Published August 5, 2009

As lawmakers on Capitol Hill remain unable to reach a bipartisan agreement on a health care reform plan, some policy analysts are questioning the congressional majority’s willingness to put partisan politics aside and work together to improve health care policy.

“None of the Democratic proposals are ‘reform’; rather, they are just another step in the government’s taking control of our access to medical services,” said John R. Graham, director of health policy studies at the Pacific Research Institute. “Government is the primary cause of high prices, questionable quality, and fragmentation of U.S. health care.

“I see no sign whatsoever that these politicians are ready to confess their role in this crisis,” Graham added.

While the Democratic congressional majority and President Barack Obama support a government-centric health care overhaul, the Republican minority supports a reduction in centralized government control over health care and an increase in individual consumer choice and control over health care dollars and decisions.

Partisanship a Problem

“While some policymakers are making great strides to reach across the aisle for reform, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is making bipartisanship difficult,” said Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute.

“Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) has been working hard to forge health reform legislation that his friend and Republican colleague Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) could support, believing that legislation that would reshape one-sixth of the U.S. economy should have bipartisan support,” said Turner, “but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tossed bipartisanship aside and told him to stop trying to cut a deal with Republicans on health reform.”

Special Interests Lurking

In addition to political disagreements and cost concerns, analysts are concerned about the role special-interest groups will play in the formation of a new health care system.

“All of the high-minded rhetoric about reform and universal coverage goes out the window once the various special interests have to get together to figure out winners and losers,” said Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation. “Doctors, insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, and single-payer advocates all talk about wanting similar things in the end, but when government is splitting up the pie, it is a zero-sum game.

“Someone always wins and someone always loses,” Gessing said.

Katie Emanuel ([email protected]) writes from Georgia.