BLAME HARRIS WOFFORD for sowing the equivalent of the kudzu vine in American politics. This liberal Pennsylvania Democrat latched on to the dormant seed of a potent issue - national health care reform - and planted it in his Senate campaign. The issue took hold more tenaciously than campaign seers could ever have predicted, spreading deeply enough among disaffected middle-class voters to swing that election away from George Bush's ex-attorney general. More significant, Wofford's surprise victory and the pivotal role played by his proposal for changes in the nation's health policy stirred the complacent Bush administration into a flurry of defensive counterproposals, if only to ward off the sheer exuberance of this relentless new political seedling.
A radical market-driven approach devised by the Heritage Foundation and favored by conservatives. Current tax incentives for employers providing health benefits would be abolished. They would be replaced with a system of tax credits for individuals, coupled with a requirement to purchase private health insurance if the tax credits are substantial enough. Essentially, workers would be allowed to choose their own insurance policies using money their employers are now spending on premiums. Ideally, they would shop around for the best deal, then make cost-conscious choices within the amount of money allowed by tax credits. If they wanted to pay more out of pocket, they could. In theory, competition for health care would lead to lower costs. Big flaw: depends on consumers' making extremely sophisticated choices in an arcane field. Another flaw: it does not reform the system of incentives that drive costs ups. Canadian Model (National Health Insurance)
1) AP Cover Photo-Harris Wofford campaigning for Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate seat. 2-3) (Harris Wofford)