How health reform can be popular with the American public

The health reform legislation was decidedly unpopular, with a variety of polls showing the majority disapproved of the bill.

What did the people want?

The ACP’s Bob Doherty linked to a post by Princeton’s Uwe Reinhardt, who observed 10 things that the public wants in health care reform:

1. Lets only patients and their own physicians determine how to respond clinically to a given medical condition, never an insurance clerk or, even worse, government bureaucrats.
2. Limits their families’ out-of-pocket payments for health care to make it “affordable.”
3. Keeps insurance premiums and taxes for health care low.
4. Does not ever ration health care, because that is un-American and practiced only by un-American alien nations with inferior health systems.
5. Does not allow public or private insurers to let “costs” or “cost-effectiveness” ever enter coverage decisions, because that would implicitly put a price on human life which, in America, unlike elsewhere in the world, is priceless.
6. Does not mandate individuals to purchase health insurance, if they do not wish to do so, if for no other reason than that this would be unconstitutional and, therefore, un-American.
7. On the other hand, grants every American the moral right – backed up by a government mandate called EMTALA – to receive critically needed and possibly high cost health care from hospitals and their affiliated doctors, even if they are uninsured and could not possibly pay for that expensive care with their own resources.
8. Controls Medicare spending, which is widely thought to be completely out of control, as long as it does not reduce payments to hospitals or to doctors or to producers of medical technology, or to any other provider of health care.
9. Provides universal health insurance coverage to all Americans, provided it does not mean raising taxes or cutting Medicare spending or raising premiums on healthy Americans.
10. Keeps government out of health care but somehow makes sure that insurance companies do not exploit patients through incomprehensible fine print, no one engages in price gouging – e.g., charge $10 for an aspirin – and no one in health care earns excessive profits (or any at all).

Got that?

When it comes to health care, “let them have their cake and eat it too,” is the clear motif of the American public’s mentality. It’s unlikely that any idea coming out of Washington would have been popular.

But there will come a time when cuts will have to be made in services, and patients are going to rebel to those proposals. It’s not a matter of if, but when. President Obama shied away from these difficult decisions, punting it to future generations.

I pity the politicians who will eventually be forced to deal with it.