The ‘moderate’ alternative on health reform

THE ‘MODERATE’ ALTERNATIVE ON HEALTH REFORM…. We’ve all read the polls. We’ve seen the election results. We know that for many Americans, the idea of health care reform sounds great, but they don’t like what they’ve heard about the Democratic plan.

For some of the plan’s detractors, the problem is that the proposal doesn’t go far enough — they want a more progressive, more ambitious plan. But for most reform opponents, the media, and the political establishment, the problem with the Democratic plan is that it’s just too darn liberal.

With that in mind, I have an idea — Dems should quickly rally around a moderate health care reform proposal that’s more in line with Americans’ expectations and wishes. It’s about time policymakers get the message and deliver the kind of plan the public really wants.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out.

Here’s what my middle-of-the-road approach would look like:

* Americans are obviously worried about fiscal irresponsibility, so a more moderate reform plan would lower the deficit and “bend the curve” on health care spending — without increasing taxes on the middle class.

* Americans have come to believe that reform represents a “government takeover.” We know that’s not true, but to alleviate fears, a more moderate reform plan would have to scrap the public option and eliminate a Medicare buy-in provision.

* Americans love Medicare, a socialized-medicine program, and are concerned that reform would undermine the system. To address these fears, a more moderate reform plan would have to strengthen Medicare’s finances, leave benefits untouched, and shrink the “donut hole” that hurts so many middle-income seniors.

* Americans have grown to resent powerful insurance companies that put their profits ahead of patients, so a more moderate reform plan would force insurers to accept all comers, regardless of pre-existing conditions; fully cover regular checkups and preventative care; eliminate annual and lifetime caps; and give folks the ability to go to emergency rooms without prior approval.

* Americans perceive politicians as ignoring “the little guy” during tough times. To let working families know policymakers are looking out for them, a more moderate reform plan would let parents keep their kids on the family plan well past high school (until the kids are 26), expand Medicaid, and provide subsidies for low- and middle-income workers to get coverage.

Unlike the liberal plan Americans are clearly uncomfortable with, this more modest, middle-of-the-road approach is the kind of reform package that should resonate with the American mainstream.

Except, of course, there’s a catch — I’ve just described the existing Democratic plan. The more moderate approach is already on the table, waiting for a vote.

Those who are convinced that Dems are proposing some radical-leftist scheme probably don’t realize how much they’d like the current plan, which has been trashed by industry ads and right-wing liars, and which they know very little about.