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Commentary

Try and Try Again
Grace-Marie Turner, Galen Institute, 5-12-06

Turner shares her frustration with two recent votes on health care reform legislation in the U.S. Senate.

The Senate this week tried, and failed, to pass two no–cost health reform measures—malpractice reform and the Small Business Health Plan bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Enzi. Enzi was unable to overcome criticism from the right and the left and came five votes short of the 60 votes needed for passage.

Cancer and other disease groups which have lobbied for years in state capitols for laws mandating coverage took out full–page ads around the country warning of the terrible consequences of passing the legislation: Women wouldn't get mammograms, diabetics wouldn't get supplies, and basically health insurance would stop covering anything worthwhile. In fact, insurance would have covered the services that people believed were worthwhile, not those dictated by politicians. Obviously, that just can't be allowed.

And even supporters of free–market reform balked at some of the compromises that Enzi made to try to get enough votes to pass his bill. They couldn't seem to see that making some progress on freeing up the market is a worthwhile goal in itself, and the bugs would have been worked out later.

That's probably the end of efforts this year to create a more open marketplace for health insurance. New purchasing options are an important part of moving toward a market where consumers have more control and freedom to purchase health insurance, and Chairman Enzi worked as hard as any senator ever has to get this legislation passed. The forces protecting the status quo prevailed, and small businesses seeking more affordable insurance will have to await another day.



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