Law Center Professors and Experts Debate Health Care Reform
October 29, 2009 – As Congress works to reform the nation's health care system on Capitol Hill, legal experts a few blocks away at Georgetown's Law Center targeted reform-related issues during two October panel discussions.
The Georgetown Law Forum on Oct. 27 brought members of Congress together with journalists and scholars for "Health Care Reform: Overdue Medicine or a Cure Worse Than the Disease?"
Moderated by CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, panelists debated the public option, tort reform and costs and the impact of the reform process on the Obama administration.
"He will emerge with something," said Charles Krauthammer, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post. "For Obama, this is the signature issue for his presidency the first year in office."
Krauthammer noted that Obama is still riding a wave of support and that it was "unthinkable" that Democrats in Congress would undercut their president on health care reform.
"It's only a question of how ambitious and radical it will be," he said.
Other panelists Georgetown alumnus Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.); Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.); and professors Judy Feder and E.J. Dionne of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute.
Debating the Public Option
Lynch said he was sure there would be some element of a public option in legislation that emerges from the House of Representatives. A public option would provide a government-run health insurance program to those unable to get insurance through the private sector.
"We need something that is robust enough to compete with the private plans," Lynch said.
Just two days later, the House emerged with a $894 billion health care package that would provide insurance to up to 36 million people by broadly expanding Medicaid -- the state-federal insurance program for the poor -- and by offering subsidies to moderate-income Americans to buy insurance either from private carriers or a new government-run plan.
"I say if a state wants to opt out, they ought to be able to opt out of not just the public option, but opt out … of the whole thing," said Barrasso (C'74, M'78) during the panel discussion.
Dionne cited America as the only wealthy democracy in the world that does not provide some form of universal health care coverage to its citizens. About 45,000 people die every year because they don't get medical care in time, according to a Harvard Medical School study released in September.
"While we like to think we have the best health care system in the world … we wait longer than anybody else to see a primary care physician," said Feder. "Hospitals have become the sixth largest cause of death because we have a quality problem."
But Feder said copying other nations' health care systems is not the answer. "We need to make our system work, not to take somebody else's and not to ration care," she said. "We can make our system work for everybody."