Hard Questions on Health Care Reform

Posted on July 8, 2009

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Vice President Joe Biden in a speech today made clear that, from the perspective of the White House, health care reform is going to happen, and happen fast. As reported by CBS’s Mark Knoller (via his Twitter feed, @markknoller), Biden stated that “we must and we will enact reform by the end of August. And we can’t wait.”

But as most people acknowledge, health care reform is not going to be easy. An article by Alec MacGillis in today’s Washington Post really brings home that point. Below are two quotes from that article which illustrate just a couple of the really hard issues that will need to addressed:

The question came from a Colorado neurologist. “Mr. President,” he said at a recent forum, “what can you do to convince the American public that there actually are limits to what we can pay for with our American health-care system? And if there are going to be limits, who . . . is going to enforce the rules for a system like that?”

President Obama called it the “right question” — then failed to answer it. This was not surprising: The query is emerging as the ultimate challenge in reining in health-care costs that now consume $2.5 trillion per year, or 16 percent of the economy. How will tough decisions be made about what to spend money on? In a country where “rationing” is a dirty word, who will say no?

And later in the article:

Such a shift would probably be a shock to the system of many Americans, who have grown used to having any and all health-care options, regardless of cost, available to them.

“The questions of who gets what, these difficult choices . . . really are not posed in the current health reform legislation,” said Drew E. Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “The challenge,” he said, “is us, the American people: We want the latest and the best, and we want it now.”