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Good Grief! Charlie Brown and the Business Roundtable's Health Plan

10/21/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Remember when Charlie Brown would run up to the ball and Lucy would pull it away? That's kind of what the Business Roundtable did this week in its health reform proposal.

Here's our health plan folks, but wait! While you will be required to get health insurance, we can't really guarantee any insurance plan will take you or that you can afford it!

Not too surprisingly, these large employers proposed a plan similar to John McCain's with its emphasis on market reform and multi-state insurance offerings. But it differs from McCain in two very significant ways, making it less radical but no less inadequate:

First, the BR does not support the taxation of employer sponsored health insurance. (It's true that the Republicans have proposed this before under Reagan but the business leaders shot it down then. Among the many reasons they oppose taxation is that it is taxation! And it messes with labor negotiations and hiring and firing and a whole lot of other things.)

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Second, The BR does support an individual mandate -- that is, requiring every American to purchase health insurance, at least basic catastrophic coverage. And that is probably news, as business generally opposes mandates of all kinds

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What's wrong with these ideas? For starters, there is no mention of any significant cost control in their proposal. The subsidies are only for those with low income (not defined) . And they do not require that insurance plans guarantee issue, which means that if you have ever been sick you can still buy insurance. We call this the Elizabeth Edwards effect, meaning that neither she nor John McCain could get insured in this individual market because of their prior cancer. Elizabeth was back in Congress this week, testifying about these very issues. But who heard her? Not the captains of industry apparently.

Barack Obama's plan, on the other hand, addresses cost containment, subsidies, insurance reform, offers a public plan for those who lose worker coverage or never had it, has an emphasis on prevention and education and quality.

We now have a variety of health reform plans on the table. John McCain's remains the most radical. But none is quite as deceptive as this Lucy trick -- reach out to get that health plan, Charlie Brown! Whoops! Lucy pulled it away again! Good Grief!!

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