Q&A

November 25, 2009

Dr. Aaron Carroll is a professor of pediatrics and director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He also conducts research for the Indianapolis-based Regenstrief Institute.

IBJ: The reform bills pending in Congress would create only a limited government-run health insurance plan, not a single-payer system as you favor. Do you still support the bills?

A: The bill will do more good than harm. Increased coverage is good. The cost is going to be the big looming thing in the future. The bill spends $900 billion over 10 years. That’s $90 billion a year. We spend $2.5 trillion a year on health care right now. That’s nothing. That’s a sneeze. Nothing, in anyone’s bill on either side of the aisle, is addressing the $2.5 trillion. That’s what’s going to kill us.

IBJ: Your center published survey results in August showing that Americans believed a lot of myths about the health care reform legislation. Do you sense the public's understanding has improved since then or not?

A: I absolutely believe this is still going on. Half the population, and it’s on both sides, is completely misinformed. We’re still talking about rationing and death panels. We’re going to have to grow up. You can’t have everyone have everything. Otherwise you go bankrupt. Rationing, that occurs right now (when private insurers decline to cover for some services). Private health insurance can’t give you everything you want. Personally, I’d rather have it be the public system, where it’s out in the open and we can all debate it.

IBJ: What elements of health care reform have received too little attention?

A: That regardless of whether they pass a bill, we are not done. We’re not even close to done. At some point, we are going to have to have a real conversation about how to handle the cost. No one is really proposing anything because it’s not going to be popular. President Obama (in his September speech before Congress) said he would be the last president to deal with health care. That’s crazy talk.

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