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Chance to get it right

Published 9:44am Thursday, July 11, 2013

When the Obama administration quietly let it be known last week that it would delay a major portion of its centerpiece health care reform law, it opened an opportunity to restructure some obvious problems with what is in general a good idea.

Although the necessary restructuring would almost wholly change the health care law, the timing is right — and indeed, may be the last chance before the nation is locked into a plan that will ultimately not work.

One of the biggest problems with the law as it is constructed is that it perpetuates the linkage of health care to employment. While most Americans who are in the workforce today see that linkage as normal, the reality is that it has not always been thus.

This is a good time to break the link. Because the primary goal of the health care initiative is to ensure that all Americans have health care (whether or not they are employed, and regardless of where they are employed), it would be wise to construct a system that does not place the administrative and cost burden on employers. Although hidden, doing so is still a tax because employers will inevitably be forced to pass increased costs along to consumers. And it is clear that, for many businesses, the new health care mandates are a disincentive to expand.

Many countries — most, in fact — have found ways to create universal insurance systems without running those programs through the added layer of employment.

There was a time when health care was a nice incentive for employers to offer; now that it’s mandatory, linking insurance to employment just adds needless complexity.

Congressional Republicans have seen the delay of reporting requirements as a good time to attack the entire health care reform program. That is an excessive reaction. But so is an ardent defense of a law that clearly has some major problems.

What is needed are rational, public minded lawmaker and administration officials who will work together to mend the issue we identified above, as well as others, and move health care reform forward on a much sounder footing.


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