Defending Wyden-Bennett

On his new policy blog at True/Slant, E.D. Kain provides a good defense of the Wyden-Bennett Act.

In Congress, however, we get bad compromises, not good ones, which is why we have the Baucus bill, which is neither as cost-effective, as close to universal coverage, or as fundamentally game-changing as Wyden-Bennett. Indeed, there is little to be enthusiastic about in the Baucus plan, which jealously protects the anti-competitive status-quo from any real changes, and thus — despite any analysis the CBO might put forth — does very little to challenge the fundamental problems which have led to such staggering health care cost increases in the United States.

There was, however, still a chance that the Baucus bill could be amended to bring more competition and cost-savings on board, and once again it’s the incorrigible Senator from Oregon, Ron Wyden, who introduced the Free Choice Act in the Senate Finance Committee. Basically Wyden’s proposal would open up the new health care exchanges to everybody no matter their employer’s coverage and no matter the size of their business.

Read the whole thing. Frankly, I’m baffled that the Republican Party hasn’t picked up Wyden-Bennett. It’s a much better reform proposal than the awful Baucus bill–which, awful as it is, still manages to be better than the status quo–and it’s also a more-market oriented reform. It’s not my ideal, but it’s a vast improvement. This would be a golden opportunity for the GOP to both steal the Democrats’ thunder and improve our hideous health care system. It’s win-win.

Instead, the Republican Party seems to be focused on simply opposing Obama, and the only significant “reform” being offered is the constant, anti-responsiblity drumbeat of “tort reform”: i.e. making physicians a special class of Americans who get to be protected from the consequences of their negligence.

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. E.D. Kain says:

    Thanks Alex! I agree – while there may be room to rein in some of the worst excesses of ambulance chasers, the fact is it’s small potatoes compared to the real problems facing our health system.

  2. Steve Plunk says:

    Perhaps tort reform doesn’t have to offer blanket protection to physicians. Maybe some common sense changes in burden of proof, jury selection, expert testimony, lawyers fees, and a few other things would do the trick. Throw that in and it could be the enticement for the GOP to climb aboard.

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    Maybe some common sense changes in burden of proof, jury selection, expert testimony, lawyers fees, and a few other things would do the trick. Throw that in and it could be the enticement for the GOP to climb aboard.

    I don’t see how this is possible without grossly violating the 10th Amendment to an extent that even the Supreme Court would balk at it, on the state level. On the Federal level, you run into a separation of powers issue, because the federal courts make their own rules.

  4. Alex Knapp says:

    (Which is not to say that I don’t think that the legal system needs some reform on some of these issues–just that Congress isn’t the right place.)

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Frankly, I’m baffled that the Republican Party hasn’t picked up Wyden-Bennett.

    I’m not a Republican but I’ve been drumming Wyden-Bennett over at my place for a long time. My guess is that they’ve decided that “Just Say No” is easier to explain.

  6. just me says:

    I’m not a Republican but I’ve been drumming Wyden-Bennett over at my place for a long time. My guess is that they’ve decided that “Just Say No” is easier to explain.

    I actually think it is legislation that would best deal with the real problems in our healthcare system.

    My thinking as to why is because this bill is risky in that it isn’t a “something for nothing” type bill and it is designed to really separate insurance and employment the way it is couples in our current system-and that comes with a lot of risk. In the end it probably is just easier to say “no” than it is to push this bill. Politicians in general really aren’t so much about taking risks because they want to keep getting reelected.

    Also, there is one advantage to the GOP saying “no” it is similar to the democrats saying “no” during the social security debates in that saying “no” leaves the other side nothing to attack other than the fact that they are saying “no.” If the GOP takes up Wyden-Bennett then the democrats have something to focus their attack on.