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The Problem that Won’t Go Away

Reforming U.S. Health Care Financing

By Henry Aaron

Why did President Clinton’s efforts to reform the financing of American health care fail? For years to come, politicians and scholars of public policy will revisit the debate over Clinton’s health care plan. What did planners do right? And what did they do wrong? How can the mistakes of that experience be avoided in the future? What steps can now be taken to achieve some measure of reform in smaller pieces? In The Problem That Won’t Go Away, economists, political scientists, sociologists, public opinion experts, and government staff offer answers to these and other crucial questions. They recount the history of the Clinton health care plan, present several alternative strategies the administration might have pursued, and conclude that none was likely to achieve the administration’s goals of universal coverage and cost containment. Many support the view that the administration, Congress, and the nation lacked the political consensus and the information to credibly describe the effects of any single bill to reform the U.S. health care system. In that case, was the only option available to the administration to reach for goals far more modest than those it sought? Health care financing as a national political issue will not go away. Pressure to cut public spending to balance the budget means that medicare and medicaid will stay in the legislative spotlight; the retirement of the baby-boom generation in the beginning of the next century promises large increases in the cost of medicare; and a flood of new and costly medical technologies will continue to put financial pressure on everyone responsible for paying for health insurance. But, as this book illustrates, the nature of the debate in the years after the demise of the Clinton plan will be altogether different from that of the past several decades.

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