Don’t blink: The fate of the world’s most costly health-care system will be shaped in the next six weeks. A leading indicator will be reactions to a report in a few days by people who have no vote on it.
If a major overhaul of the U.S. health-care system, now President Barack Obama’s top priority, doesn’t clear the House or Senate — the two bodies are jockeying over who goes first – – by the early August congressional recess, prospects of anything happening are dim.
“The probabilities are not great,” says Donna Shalala, who was secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services during the ill-fated Clinton health-care effort 15 years ago and is now president of the University of Miami. “But they are good.”
On Wednesday, a bipartisan study group headed by former Senate leaders Tom Daschle, a Democrat, and Republicans Bob Dole and Howard Baker will release recommendations. These will displease interest groups on all sides, and may also form a realistic basis for any final compromise.
Barring snags, the committee will call for universal coverage and a radical change in the system of reimbursements, while offering only a minimal, perhaps fallback, plan for a public insurance entity, and spelling out ways to pay for it. These would include taxing employer-provided health benefits that exceed the generous federal health plan. That would raise more than $400 billion over the next decade, or one-third of the cost.