+Health Care and the 2008 Election
+General Analysis of the Health Care Issue
+Health Care Foundations, Think Tanks and Interest Groups
+The International Perspective
Health Care and the 2008 Election
Sen. Clinton supports an individual mandate requiring everyone to buy health insurance, either through their existing provider, from "the quality private insurance options that members of Congress receive," or from a public plan option similar to Medicare. Her plan doesn't include any mechanism for enforcing that mandate, although when pressed, Clinton has said she is open to a variety of methods, including garnishing employees' wages if they do not obtain health care. Read her entire plan (PDF file).
A Sept. 2007 analysis by The Economist of Sen. Clinton's health care reform proposal.
From the NPR program On Point, a one-hour radio discussion of Sen. Clinton's plan, featuring journalists and health policy advisers to the Obama and Clinton campaigns (Sept. 2007).
Sen. Obama wants to provide "quality, affordable and portable coverage for all," but his plan falls short of Clinton's universal coverage -- it wouldn't require everyone to have insurance, just all children. And as with Clinton's plan, his offers no enforcement mechanism. Read his entire plan (PDF file).
Slate's Timothy Noah analyzes the differences between the two candidates and outlines his own thoughts on getting to universal coverage (Nov. 30, 2007).
Paul Krugman compares the health care plans of the two candidates in this Feb. 4, 2008, New York Times op-ed piece: "The big difference is mandates: the Clinton plan requires that everyone have insurance; the Obama plan doesn't."
Sen. McCain focuses on marketplace competition, which he believes will contain the rapidly rising cost of health care as well as make health care more affordable. His plan would replace employer-provided health insurance with a tax credit for individuals and families to buy their health insurance from any provider. But his plan doesn't require anyone to get insurance, nor does it prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing medical problems. To lower health care costs, McCain also supports improved information technology, more transparency about the quality and cost of care, and tort reform to "eliminate frivolous lawsuits" against doctors.
Fortune editor-at-large Shawn Tully compares McCain's proposal to create "a kind of national insurance market" to the Democrats' "Medicare-like federal superprogram." His conclusion: "Both have huge flaws, but on balance McCain's is better," because "it puts the consumer in charge" (March 11, 2008).
The Economist examines measures that McCain endorsed in the Senate that "place him closer to the Democratic contenders on health policy than to any of his Republican rivals for the nomination" (March 2008).
Paul Krugman's April 2008 New York Times op-ed piece lambasting McCain's free-market approach to delivering health care.
From a 10-part Slate series offering advice to the next president, Ezra Klein lays out a guide to the politics of health care. Among his suggestions: "Do it first, don't write a bill, and let someone else take the credit." Klein also blogs about health care and politics for the left-leaning American Prospect.
The Commonwealth Fund -- an organization that supports independent research on health care issues and a funder of this FRONTLINE report -- offers a comparison of the candidates' proposals and opinion polls asking the public and health care experts what they think of the candidates' plans.
This Web site run by the Kaiser Family Foundation -- which awarded correspondent T.R. Reid a Kaiser Media Fellowship in support of his work on this report -- tracks the health care issue in the 2008 campaign. Features side-by-side summaries of the candidates' positions and video forums with the candidates. Kaiser also cosponsored, with Harvard and NPR, a poll of primary voters which found broad support for requiring health insurance, but opposition to fining or otherwise punishing those who don't get coverage.
General Analysis of the Health Care Issue
The Economist offers a pithy December 2007 overview of the thorny issues, informed by what some polls are indicating.
The Economist reports from California on that state's recent failed legislation to provide universal health care coverage.
A lucid and thought-provoking essay by Robin Wells and Paul Krugman in the March 2006 New York Review of Books.
A one-hour discussion from NPR's On Point on the escalating costs of health care and the ramifications (Feb. 2008).
A Washington Post article on another reason runaway health costs are becoming an economic and political issue: they're contributing to the problem of stagnating wages.
The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn uses former TNR editor Michael Kinsley treatment for Parkinson's disease as a starting point for dissecting "the best case against universal health care": that a system responsible for providing care for all might stifle innovative but expensive care. Cohn has also written a book about the problems with American health care; listen to an interview with him discussing that topic from the NPR program Fresh Air.
For the release of Michael Moore's documentary Sicko, The Atlantic combed its archives for articles critical of health care in America. The pieces they unearthed range from a 1910 critique of medical education up to an analysis of European health care circa 1960.
In February 2007, the Los Angeles Times ran this five-part debate over California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's universal health care plan between a member of the governor's staff and an opponent of the plan. The topics discussed include the role of insurance in health care reform and the problem of insuring illegal immigrants. In January 2008, a compromise bill crafted by Schwarzenegger and the speaker of the California Assembly was rejected by a state Senate committee.
Unlike California, Massachusetts managed to pass universal health insurance. But more applicants than anticipated have signed up for coverage, overburdening the commonwealth's primary care physicians, reports Kevin Sack in the April 5, 2008, New York Times. And the AP reports that the Massachusetts program is costing more than expected, forcing lawmakers to consider a $1-per-pack hike to the state's cigarette tax.
Health Care Foundations, Think Tanks and Interest Groups
The libertarian Cato Institute favors free-market health care reforms and is skeptical that other nations' health care programs are better than the United States'. Michael Tanner, Cato's director of health and welfare studies, argues that other countries' health care programs "demonstrate the failure of centralized command and control and the benefits of increasing consumer incentives and choice." And economist Glen Whitman takes issue with the World Health Organization's low ranking of the U.S. health care system.
Any attempt to fix U.S. health care will mean changes for the nation's health insurance companies, so it is not surprising that the industry's lobbying group has put forth its own reform proposal. The gist of their plan: States should create "Guarantee Access Plans" to cover the uninsured with the highest medical costs, and in return, private health insurers will guarantee coverage to all other applicants. Read the full proposal (PDF file) online, along with their take on why health care costs are rising.
The Kaiser Foundation -- which awarded correspondent T.R. Reid a Kaiser Media Fellowship in support of his work on this report -- provides free information on health care through a network of Web sites and partnerships with media organizations. It offers primers on various facets of the U.S. health care system, including Medicare, the rising cost of health care and the uninsured. Kaiser also runs statehealthfacts.org, which compiles health data for all 50 states, and publishes the free Daily Health Policy Report.
The Commonwealth Fund -- a funder of this FRONTLINE report -- is "a private foundation working toward a high performance health system." To that end, the group established a commission in 2005 to study U.S. health care reform. Read the commission's initial report and its National Scorecard on U.S. Health System Performance, on which the United States scored a 66 out of a possible 100. The fund's site also features an interactive Web feature exploring various options for fixing the U.S. health care system, and a state-by-state health care scorecard.
A project of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, the atlas documents "glaring variations in how medical resources are distributed and used in the United States." The 2008 atlas and its executive summary are available for download (PDF files), but the highlight of the site is the set of interactive data tools that allows users to produce custom reports comparing states, or even individual hospitals.
The Engelberg Center "serves as the 'hub' of all Brookings activity related to health policy." Its home page features a Candidate Issue Index, part of a joint project with ABC News comparing the health care plans of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain, and commentary from the think tank's scholars.
The International Perspective
The Paris-based OECD publishes international statistics on a variety of economic issues, including health policy. In Health at a Glance 2007, it collects data on a wide range of health care indicators from its 30 member nations. From that data the OECD also publishes reports on individual countries, including this précis on the United States (PDF file).
Part of the United Nations, the WHO is the group whose World Health Report ranked the U.S. health care system 37th in the world in 2000. The WHO has not revisited those rankings since then, but it maintains the WHOSIS online database of international health statistics and publishes an annual World Health Statistics Report.
The rebranded homepage of the United Kingdom's National Health Service reflects the April 2008 launch of Patient Choice, a program that allows Britons to compare hospitals, choose which specialists they wish to see, and book appointments online. It's the latest attempt by the mostly socialized NHS to introduce some market competition into health care delivery. The NHS site also features a guide to common health problems and advice on healthy living.