The state of the US economy and the Congress' struggle to pass a fiscal stimulus package seems to have crowded out the Obama Administration's mind share on other vital initiatives.
So I was glad to see Paul Krugman drawing attention to this issue in his Jan 29 Times OpEd "Health Care Now." Krugman argues that (a) The economic crisis and resultant swelling of the ranks of the unemployed uninsured adds to the urgency of reforming the health care safety net; (b) The cost of healthcare reforms are far less than the fiscal stimulus package, and hence not "too expensive"; (c) many of the health and health reform expenditures will of themselves stimulate the economy and should be part of the stimulus package; and (d) the time to act and seize the moment is short and we shouldn't let the momentum built from the current "serious crisis go to waste."
I agree with Krugman on all these points. If anything I'd like Krugman (and the Obama administration) to expand advocacy of health care reforms from universal coverage, single payer system and drug purchase coverage to also include other important measures. These are, addressing the doctor shortage and ensuring increase in long and short term supply of health care workers; malpractice and tort reforms that will immensely ease overall health costs; and allowing more international trade in health care services (importing doctors and exporting patients) that improves services and lowers costs. All these measures carry huge benefits, but are opposed by some influential lobbies.
Still, the main point of Krugman's article shouldn't be lost sight of. Congress has struck its compromise on a $789B package. Sadly, some needed health expenditures have been cut out, but a separate health care focused bill can address this. Obama's administration should keep sweeping health care reforms on the front burner and act before the window of opportunity narrows.