Health Care Reform and the Economy

March 9, 2009

Henry Aaron says health care reform is a critical step forward for the nation and needs to be strategically crafted and implemented. The economy, he adds, could be a factor affecting President Obama’s plans for tackling the issue.


“I believe to a very significant degree the success of health reform is going to hinge on the ability of President Obama to maintain and enhance his credibility and political standard with the American people and with Congress. That means the economic recovery program, a measure of success for the program, I think is a critical component of health care reform. If the economy begins to turn around, and if some significant part of the credit for that is traceable and based on initiatives taken by the Obama administration, he is going to be in a very strong position to say to Congress that his plans were well considered, “back me up on this next step,” and he will be able to move ahead. If the economy does not recover well then I’m afraid he is going to run into some very serious opposition and it may jeopardize much of the rest of his program.”

“…If we want to reform the way in which we pay for and deliver health care, and I strongly believe it’s an extremely important and highly desirable objective, then we have to break the job down into manageable pieces and tackle them one by one. We’ve already begun this year. Three very significant reforms have already been enacted. The first was an extension of coverage to about four million children, many of whom not covered at the present time. Second and third were both in the economic recovery plan. One was the commitment of a large sum of money to try and bring American health care into the twenty first century with respect to information technology. A number of other countries are way ahead of us in that respect, there’s a lot to be done, it won’t be cheap, it will exceedingly difficult, but this bill allows us to get underway. And the final step was, in the recovery package, was the commitment of about a billion dollars to evaluate the comparative effectiveness of various medical procedures.”

“…The president has set aside a pot of money that, in negotiations with Congress, can be used to pay for various health reforms. I regard the health summit that took place a few days later as an attempt to draw attention to the seriousness of which the administration plans to address health reform. Put money in the budget, announce on a high profile basis the president is behind this, and it means that, to a degree that it would not otherwise have been the case, the administration’s prestige is on the line. So delivering on this is now more important and more realizable, because of the budget, than it would have been if a few steps haven’t been taken.”