Health care is one of the most important issues concerning Americans this election season. More than 45 million Americans do not have health insurance—a reality that has dire consequences for both individuals and the economy.
Policymakers across the political spectrum agree that we need to make health care more affordable and more accessible to all Americans. But when it comes down to the issues—should reform come from the federal government, or states? how should we construct tax credits? what about high-risk pools?—differences emerge.
To help you better understand some of the key concepts factoring into the health reform debate, the Center for American Progress’ health policy experts have compiled a series of issue briefs covering issues ranging from consumer-driven health plans to socialized medicine.
Better Health Through Better Information
September 29, 2009
Comparing the effectiveness of a range of treatments for a condition and assessing how appropriate a treatment is for a person of a certain gender or background is a logical way of closing the information gap that exists in health care today. Comparative effectiveness research does just that. It evaluates different drugs, medical devices, and clinical procedures for the same illness against each other.
Entitlement Reform Means Fixing the Broader Health System
February 20, 2009
Medicare, the entitlement program that provides health coverage for seniors, presents some of the country’s most serious budget challenges. Medicare enrollment will grow substantially as baby boomers start to become eligible for retirement in 2011. This demographic shift will also strain Medicaid, Medicare’s sister program for low-income families. But the far bigger challenge facing both programs is rising health care costs.
A reformed health system will likely include both public and private coverage choices. Public programs are not perfect, but current health reform proposals provide an opportunity to expand on their strengths and improve weaknesses—not to do away with them completely.
An Unhealthy Individual Insurance Market
December 23, 2008
Although 45 million Americans are uninsured, only 14.5 million Americans buy insurance on the individual market. This brief explores the problems with the individual market, including the absence of risk pooling and health status discrimination, and ways the individual market could be improved.
Changing the Course of Mental Health
December 18, 2008
One in four adults in America, approximately 60 million people, experiences mental illness in any given year. Health care reform must include a discussion of care and delivery for mental illness. This brief details the challenges Americans face in obtaining affordable mental health treatment, a detailed look at mental health parity legislation, and a point-counterpoint on why market-based medicine alone cannot cure mental illness.
Since President George W. Bush took office, the number of businesses that offer health insurance to their workers has declined 8 percent, from 69 percent in 2000 to 63 percent in 2008. This issue brief looks at the hurdles small businesses must overcome to offer health care to their workers, reasons and recommendations why they should offer coverage, and a point-counterpoint on common arguments for and against these businesses offering coverage.
High-Risk Insurance Pools: A Flawed Model for Reform
September 29, 2008
High-risk pools could provide a viable option for high-cost individuals, but they would be extremely expensive as a model for nationwide reform. This brief outlines other approaches to providing coverage to costly individuals, including expansion of group coverage options and guaranteed availability of health insurance. An interactive map shows how high-risk pool plans are currently distributed around the country.
The Price Isn’t Right: The Facts on Affordable Health Care
August 19, 2008
Health care costs are escalating four times faster than wages, and policymakers agree that affordable health care is an important goal. But it can’t be achieved through conservatives’ proposed flat tax. Affordability requires consideration of both premiums and out-of-pocket expenditures. This brief provides a point-counterpoint on how to make care more affordable and includes background information on the issue.
Thinking about malpractice reform in collective terms—healthy communities and a healthy nation—is critical to improving our health care system. But comprehensive malpractice reform remains unlikely. This brief explains why, provides background on medical malpractice, and includes a personal account from Dr. Margaret Thompson.
The Specter of Socialized Medicine
May 14, 2008
The reality of health reform proposals is that none of the presidential candidates supports a government-run or single-payer system. Nonetheless, accusations of socialized medicine will likely continue to be raised about any reform proposal that is not based entirely on letting private insurance companies rule our health care system. This brief helps you get the facts straight on public health reform proposals.
The biggest threat to the nation’s health is preventable, chronic disease. Conservatives claim the answer is increased individual “ownership” of health care dollars, but this “solution” has not seemed to work in reality. This brief explains why it won’t work and outlines a better way—promoting prevention.
Credit Check: Tax Policy’s Role in Health Reform
March 20, 2008
The only thing that health plans across the political spectrum may have in common is that most include tax credits to make insurance more affordable. Yet to be useful, credits must be properly targeted and large enough to make premiums affordable for the uninsured. This brief explains tax credit basics, shows how credits can go wrong, and provides a checklist for effectively expanding health coverage with credits.
The Great State vs. Federal Health Care Reform Debate
March 17, 2008
No national policymaker should relegate health reform to the states. But it is time for our national leaders to step up to the challenge at the federal level to enact nationwide universal health care. This brief lays out the basics of state health care reform, provides a point-counterpoint on state vs. federal reform, and displays in an interactive map the relationship between higher poverty and higher uninsurance rates.