Pass the health care reform act.
The bill in front of the Senate has Howard Dean screaming and the tea partiers boiling. It has more nicks and dents than a junkyard fender.
Yet, despite all the hits it has taken, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act contains the seeds of real reform. It is a vast improvement over the status quo.
The bill would guarantee access to affordable medical insurance to nearly all Americans.
Millions of citizens would no longer face the possibility that an illness, divorce or job loss might leave them without a way to pay for a routine doctor’s visit or emergency care.
And medical bills would cease to be a leading cause of bankruptcy filings.
Prospects now look dim for Congress allowing the federal government to take more of a role in providing direct coverage, either through a so-called public option or an expansion of Medicare to people as young as 55.
That’s a missed opportunity. A robust public option to compete alongside private insurance plans would be the surest way to drive down inflation in the health care industry.
But some promising ideas for curbing the costs of medical care — like a tax on high-end insurance plans and an independent commission to modernize the Medicare program — have survived the legislative meat grinder.
Also, Reid’s bill is loaded with incentives for hospitals and physicians to move away from the current “fee for service” model and toward a system that pays for results.
The Senate should heed the advice of economists and speed up the carrot-and-stick approach. For example, why wait until 2015 to begin penalizing hospitals for preventable infections? A successful protocol for preventing infections has been available for years; the problem is that too few hospitals use it correctly.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Kansas City Star.