Johnson Essay

10311 words - 41 pages

The debate over how to lower health costs while improving the quality of care is a vital one, particularly in light of economic challenges at home and abroad. Medicare is central to this challenge; as fewer workers pay into a system with an increasing number of older beneficiaries, how can we ensure that Medicare remains solvent for generations to come? In a health care system plagued by rising medical costs, how can health IT reduce medical errors and make the delivery of quality care more cost-effective? These questions are critical for the presidential candidates as they confront the need to improve U.S. health care while reducing the budget deficit. Brookings expert Alice Rivlin provided advice to the next president on this important topic. Rivlin, senior fellow in Economic Studies, was a founding member of the Congressional Budget Office and former director of the Office of Management and Budget. On December 16, 2011, Rivlin released a premium support reform plan for Medicare with Pete Domenici, her co-chair at the Bipartisan Policy Center. http://www.brookings.edu/about/projects/campaign-2012/issues/health-care Health care reform was a prominent issue in the 2008 campaign, dominated the congressional agenda for much of 2009, and culminated in landmark health care legislation in 2010. So that was settled, and no one has to think about health care policy in 2012, right? Wrong. It's back. Health care is still high on the political agenda and destined to be one of the most polarizing issues of the 2012 campaign. In his presidential campaign, candidate Barack Obama promised health care coverage for the uninsured and action to rein in the rapidly rising health costs. "I will judge my first term as president based on . . . whether we have delivered the kind of health care that every American deserves and that our system can afford," he said. He made good on the first step of that promise when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) narrowly passed the Democrat-led Congress in 2010. The Obama administration is working hard to implement the ACA, but Republican primary candidates uniformly call for its repeal. In addition, the country's rising debt has become a growing concern for policymakers. Increased longevity, the retirement of the baby boom generation, and rapidly rising health care costs make Medicare reform essential to reducing projected federal borrowing. The president contends that the ACA's multiple provisions designed to restrain the cost of Medicare will solve the problem, but Republicans disagree. They call for "structural" changes in Medicare, such as "premium support," which would allow Medicare beneficiaries to choose among competing private health plans and cap the government's contribution. Americans agree on the need to reduce the growth of health care costs, improve quality, and increase availability but are divided on what role the government should play. In the next administration, whichever party prevails, the ACA should be fine-tuned...

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