Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Health Reform in the 21st Century: Insurance Market Reforms

Statement of Uwe E. Reinhardt, Ph.D.
House Committee on Ways and Means
April 22, 2009

Most industrialized nations in the OECD, along with Taiwan, seek to operate their health systems on the Principle of Social Solidarity. It means to them that health care is to be viewed as a so-called “social good,” like elementary and secondary education in the United States. That perspective, in turn, implies that the financial burden of health care for the nation as a whole should be allocated to individual members of society roughly in accordance with the individual’s ability to pay, and that needed health care should be available to all members of society on toughly equal terms.

If the health system is to operated subject to this distributive social ethic, it requires that government either operate the financing, risk-pooling and purchasing functions directly (as is the case in Canada, Taiwan and the UK, for example) or that government tightly regulate all three functions, even if they are actually performed by private institutions outside of government proper (as is the case in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland).

Unfortunately, the United States never has been able to evolve a widely shared consensus on the distributive social ethic that ought to govern the U.S. health system. The bewildering American health system reflects that lack of consensus.

A much mouthed mantra in our debate on health policy is that “we all want the same thing in health care, but merely quibble over the means to get there.” Nothing could be further from the truth. That debate has been and continues to be a tenacious ideological fight over the social ethic that ought to govern American health care; but we camouflage it as a technical debate strictly over means.

My plea before this Committee and to the Congress is that any health reform proposal put before the American people be preceded with a preamble that clearly articulates the social goals our health system is supposed to pursue and the social ethic it is to observe. Policy makers in other nations routinely do so and accept the constraints that this preamble imposes on their design of health reform. It would be helpful to have a clearly articulated statement on the social ethics for American health care as well.

You should read his entire statement.

No comments:

Post a Comment