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Rick Santorum on health care: not much to write home about

Posted Feb 08 2012 4:03pm

Rick Santorum won three GOP contests yesterday: Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri, so I decided to take a look at where he stands on health care. Turns out his health care platform is just a predictable jeremiad of anti-Obama rants plus a collection of well-worn Republican feel-good proposals that would have little practical impact if enacted. That’s all you really need to know about it, but if you want more, here’s a point-by-point guide:

The section of his website is entitled “Repeal and Replace ObamaCare with PATIENT-CENTERED HEALTHCARE” and has two tenets:

  • “Every American should have access to high-quality, affordable health care, with health care decisions made by patients and their physicians, NOT government bureaucrats”
  • “America needs targeted, market-driven, patient-centered solutions to address the costs and underlying causes of being uninsured rather than a one-size fits-all, government-run health care system”

It’s interesting that he’s calling for universal, affordable access. Sounds a lot like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The only difference is this piece about “government bureaucrats.” I wonder what specific elements of PPACA he means by this –because I don’t see a lot of interference in “health care decisions” in the Act relative to the pre-PPACA days.

It’s hard to argue with the idea of “targeted” and “patient-centered” solutions. And actually, that’s the path taken by PPACA. Didn’t opponents criticize the length of the bill? A lot of that is because there are many different targeted approaches taken: some for individuals, others for small business, others for medium sized organizations, still others for large entities. Other targeted interventions are in place for high-risk patients, and there is an innovation center to support the efforts of those who want to try new approaches. I will argue with Santorum’s appeal for “market-driven” solutions –which is going to mean many people are not insurable and that their premiums will rise and policies will be canceled when they get sick. And PPACA is simply not a government-run health care system as I have explained .

Santorum lays out his plan in “THE SANTORUM HEALTH CARE SOLUTION.”

“Priority number 1 = repeal ObamaCare,” which he describes as “job-destroying,” “heavy handed,” “cruel.” Nice rhetoric, but no facts to back it up.

He then ticks off a set of unoriginal antidotes, that pretty much echo the uninspiring “replace” long-promised by the Congressional GOP:

  • Increase Health Savings Accounts and high deductible insurance plans
  • Reduce costs through competition. Ironically Santorum wants to see this done through “increased transparency, electronic records, and health care literacy” –all of which are significant initiatives of the Obama Administration
  • Allow the purchase of health insurance across state lines. This is one of the most hypocritical GOP positions, because it really means attacking states’ rights to establish their own rules. And there’s no serious evidence that this would have any meaningful impact on costs
  • Letting individuals purchase health coverage with pre-tax dollars. First, this only benefits those paying significant taxes –i.e., those who don’t need the help. Second, it encourages inflation of health insurance costs. Finally, it erodes the tax base and worsens the deficit
  • Medical liability reform. Again, another favorite of the GOP, that will do next to nothing to control costs and certainly isn’t “patient-centered”
  • Block grants for Medicaid. Just another way to squeeze the poor

And that’s it.

Let’s face it, these proposals will not lead to “every American” having “access to high-quality, affordable health care.” In fact they really won’t lead anywhere productive.


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