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Rep. Thompson’s Position on Healthcare Reform

Posted by Christopher Long on 06/30 at 01:11 PM

My Response to Rep. Thompson’s Stance on Healthcare

(For reference, here is Rep. Thompson’s policy page on healthcare:

I received a letter from Representative Thompson the other day in response to the call I made to his office in support of a strong public health insurance plan.  The letter was thoughtful, but misguided.  In it, Representative Thompson recognized the need for substantive health care reform, which I was pleased to hear. He understands that expanding funding for Health Information Technology will bring costs down in the long run and help rural hospitals in particular.

Representative Thompson’s position remains, however, misguided in two fundamental ways. First, it disingenuously trades on fear by caricaturing a strong public plan as a path that would “sacrifice quality,” repress innovation and “place undue limitations on choices for the American people.” In the letter, he speaks of some vague “single payer, government run healthcare system,” something the Obama administration is not at all advocating.  Rather than addressing the proposal that would institute a strong public insurance option that would operate in competition with existing providers, Representative Thompson sets up a straw man that suggests an onerous government bureaucracy intent on crushing innovation and reducing the quality of care.

Second, Representative Thompson’s position is misguided because it seems to assume that free market competition will provide the most innovation and the best coverage at the least cost. If we have learned anything over the past 30 years, it is that the free market with its overarching interest in maximizing profits is inherently incapable of providing the entire population with excellent heathcare at a reasonable cost.

Whatever reform we undertake this summer, the plan must be strong enough to reign in the profit maximizing interest of the free market so as to force the industry to focus on the most important interest: excellent care for all Americans.  Only a strong government role can do this.  For reasons laid about beautifully in this Wall Street Journal editorial by Robert Reich, I am convinced that a robust public plan is the best way to accomplish this.  However, even if such a strong public plan is not ultimately adopted, any reform that remains incapable of holding the profit seeking interests of private insurance providers accountable to our deeper common interest in providing excellent health care for all Americans will be a failure.

{name} Author: Christopher Long
Bio: Associate Professor of Philosophy / Director of Graduate Studies / The Pennsylvania State University


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