Members of the Senate Budget Committee voiced the need for universal health coverage, though they sparred with each other and three health policy analysts over what such a system would like and how much it would ultimately cost.
Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said that moving toward a universal healthcare system would make patient-care coordination easier, smooth the way for widespread health information-technology adoption and encourage providers to use identified best practices. All of which, he added, would help lower healthcare costs. The sooner we act, the better, Conrad said.
In an opening statement, Conrad outlined three basic options for universal coverage: a government-run, single-payer system, or separate mandates that would require employers to offer coverage or instead require individuals to purchase their own insurance.
Henry Aaron, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, told lawmakers that he favors an approach allowing individual states to design their own healthcare systems patterned on the needs of their own populations. Under that approach, an independent agency sheltered from political whims would have oversight of the different systems, he said.
Earlier this month, Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a bill that would fund 10 states to develop their own statewide plans for universal, comprehensive coverage. Of those 10 plans, five would be chosen for implementation. A similar bill was introduced in the House by Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.). -- by Matthew DoBias
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