LC Bulletin: Finding a consensus

September 9, 2011. Retrieved online September 13, 2011 from Natisha Hales, Las Cruces Bulletin

The health care debate continues

While there’s a consensus that health care spending is out of control, there is limited access to health care and the quality is suffering, politicians also agree to disagree on final decisions regarding health care reform and how much the government should contribute.

“There’s nothing new about this big debate about what the role of government should be,” said former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, a featured speaker on health care during the Domenici Public Policy Conference. “It is a divided Senate. Reaching 60 votes is very, very difficult, and that’s why for the last 100 years, we have not had the opportunity for meaningful health care reform. It’s like loading frogs on a wheelbarrow; as hard as it is, it’s even more difficult to keep them there as you try to move forward.”

Daschle, along with Molina Healthcare President/CEO Dr. Mario Molina, said the American health care system is broken. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, however, Daschle said this is only the beginning of reform, not the end.

“There are going to be fumbles, yards gained and lost, and it will take some time before we achieve our goal,” Daschle said. “Already, there are lessons learned. Passage of (the Affordable Care Act) doesn’t end the debate; that debate is just going to continue.”

The debate has already been heated up in the courtroom with 20 pending cases challenging the constitutionality of the act and decisions that have been appealed, as the issue heads to the Supreme Court in 2012.

“The Constitution doesn’t require health care,” Daschle said, “but I do believe, in any developed society, it ought to be a moral right. But with that right comes the responsibility to take care of ourselves and pay for ourselves, and not pass those costs on to someone else.”

The costs being passed on – since the increased demands of Medicare and Medicaid on the state and federal budgets – are causing strain on all of American society, Molina said. “Medicare and Medicaid may not directly apply to you now, but indirectly, they are critical to all of us,” he said. “One of three children in the U.S. will be on Medicaid at some point in their lives.”

However, it’s not just the amount of government-subsidized programs that are responsible for the problem, Molina said. It’s the entire system.

“The American health care system is extremely fragmented and inefficient,” he said.

Noting that programs such as Medicaid were started with the idea as temporary assistance for families between jobs, Molina said finding the solutions to health care problems is about finding solutions to socioeconomic problems.

“The same is true for the issue of health disparities,” he said. “I think it has less to do with things like race and more to do with things like poverty and access to care.”

Read the Las Cruces Bulletin article.

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