The Economic Consequences of Failure to Enact Nixon, Carter, and Clinton Health Reforms

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The U.S. Congress is on the threshold of historic change that will usher in a new era in American health care. In the last 50 years, three presidents—Nixon, Carter, and Clinton—have made a serious effort to enact reform and failed. The nation simply cannot afford to do so again. History makes clear that failing to act on health reform has serious and far-reaching economic ramifications. <br /><br />In a <a href="/blog/2009/costs-failure-economic-consequences-failure-enact-nixon-carter-and-clinton-health-reforms">new blog post</a>, Commonwealth Fund president Karen Davis and senior research associate Kristof Stremikis examine trends in health spending showing that if health reform measures proposed by Presidents Nixon, Carter, or Clinton had been enacted and slowed the growth in spending by as little as 1 percentage points annually, spending trends in the U.S. over the last 50 years would have been closer to those seen in other major industrialized countries—and fewer adverse health consequences and economic burdens would have been borne by American families, businesses, and government. <br /><br />The authors note that critics of health reform have questioned whether the cost containment provisions in the health reform bills passed by the House and under consideration in the Senate are sufficient. But Davis and Stremikis say that the House and Senate bills would begin to bend the curve in total health spending and encourage the development of mechanisms for extending cost control measures more broadly once experience is gained. <br /><br />"Congress is right to move ahead," the authors say. "After 50 years of spiraling health care costs and the resulting price paid by American families, business, and government, we can no longer afford to postpone health reform." <br />