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Transition 2012

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Tracking the Issues: The Battle Over Health Care Reform

by Newsteam Staff
March 23, 2012

A patient is wheeled into an operating room for surgery at at Rose Medical Center in Denver June 20, 2011 (Rick Wilking/Courtesy Reuters). A patient is wheeled into an operating room for surgery at at Rose Medical Center in Denver June 20, 2011 (Rick Wilking/Courtesy Reuters).


The U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments Monday on President Obama’s 2010 health care law, which many Republicans — including the full slate of GOP presidential candidates — say is unconstitutional because it of its mandate that everyone buy health insurance or face a penalty tax.

Republicans are looking to repeal the law, which proponents argue brings down overall costs via a number of means, including expanding care to the about 30 million uninsured. But since much of law does not go into effect until 2014, it remains to be seen what effect it will have on costs and business competitiveness. Still, many analysts argue the ability of U.S. businesses to compete in the global market is dependent in large part on whether healthcare costs can be brought under control. U.S. total spending on healthcare is more than 17 percent of GDP and rising, more than any other country in the world. The numbers show U.S. voters also pay far more than the rest of the world (WashPo) for health care.

CFR’s Peter Orszag, a former Obama administration budget adviser, notes in Foreign Affairs that federally funded healthcare alone is expected to rise from 5.5 percent of GDP to 12 percent by 2050. “It is no exaggeration to say that the United States’ standing in the world depends on its success in constraining this health-care cost explosion; unless it does, the country will eventually face a severe fiscal crisis or a crippling inability to invest in other areas,” he says.

All four GOP presidential candidates oppose Obama’s 2010 health care law. In a USAToday op-ed, Mitt Romney lays out his opposition. “What we need is a free market, federalist approach to making quality, affordable health insurance available to every American,” he said. On his campaign page, he says that he wants each state “to craft a health care reform plan that is best for its own citizens.”

Newt Gingrich said his “comprehensive approach—cost, quality, competition, and coverage—can solve the problem of the uninsured with no individual mandate and no employer mandate.”

Rick Santorum has said after repealing current law he would “strengthen patient-driven health coverage options.”

Ron Paul, a doctor before entering public service, said he would “institute reforms that will once again make America’s health care system the standard for other nations to follow.”

Suggested Other Reading:

Arguments in the United States over health care policy runs counter to the models proposed in much of the rest of the developed and developing world, most of which has some form of universal health care, or is headed toward its, says CFR’s Yanzhong Huang. “Unlike the [United States], emerging economies are not buying the argument that health care is largely the responsibility of individuals and businesses, with a public provision relegated to special interests, including the elderly, veterans, and the indigent,” says  Huang.

This CFR backgrounder looks are the relationship between U.S. healthcare costs and business competitiveness.

A CFR panel tackles the question of finding a health care model that is socially desirable, politically acceptable, technologically feasible, and financially sustainable in the world today.

ABC explains in this primer what the court is considering and how proceedings will be held.

In this 2011 CFR roundup, four experts debate the degree to which the law helps or hurts U.S. competitiveness.

Contributing Editor Gayle S. Putrich and Senior Editor Toni Johnson

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