Reinhardt To Obama: Explain Health Bills Better

What advice does Princeton health economist Uwe Reinhardt have for President Obama to resuscitate his health care plan? Talk to the people, not the academics.

Person driving car. i

Economist says people in these aren't being reached. istockphoto.com hide caption

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Person driving car.

Economist says people in these aren't being reached.


Reinhardt tells NPR All Things Considered host Robert Siegel, in an interview to air tomorrow, that the president has not been very good at explaining what is actually in the health care bill — all they are hearing is sweetheart deals and death panel rhetoric.

He says the president has but two modes of speaking: oratory and grad school seminar. "That's good for eggheads like me, but not for people driving along in their cars," he says.

The comprehensive health bill teetering on the precipice right now contains "many things the American people have yearned for," like an end to discrimination against pre-existing conditions, help with insurance costs for small businesses, help for seniors with drug costs, and so on. But, Reinhardt adds, the people are "not very informed."

He points to a recent Kaiser poll showing that when people were told about measures in the bill, their support for it generally increased.

In the interview, Reinhardt criticizes the Democrats for not doing enough in the early stages of negotiations this year to fold in items that may have brought in more Republican support, such as significant medical malpractice reforms. Not including this in the bill? "Inexcusable," he says.

"Democrats, particularly House Democrats, were probably a little more arrogant than they should have been," Reinhardt says. He suggests the best-case scenario for reviving the bill remains for the House to take up the Senate bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week the House did not have the votes to do so, but left the window open just a crack.

Reinhardt also has some criticism for Republicans, too, suggesting they have put little forward in the way of suggestions and passed their own mega health bill a few years ago, adding prescription drug coverage to Medicare, without even attempting to balance the budget around it.

But Sen.Tom Coburn, a.k.a. the senator who suggested that seniors would die sooner under the Democrats' bill, has his own bill with some suggestions on insurance regulation similar to Democrats.' Both bills create an insurance exchange where people can go to buy insurance, and impose federal standards on what kinds of plans can be offered. Maybe that's a start, Reinhart says

Tune in tomorrow for the full interview.



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