By Chris Casteel
Pitching his sweeping health care plan at a conservative think tank, Sen.Tom Coburn said Tuesday that he "tried not to think about the politics" of his legislation.
"We tried to think of what needs to happen" to address shortcomings in the health care system, Coburn said at the Heritage Foundation. "When you start thinking about the politics, you start thinking about what you can't do."
With his emphasis on creating a more consumer-driven system with more choices in health care coverage, Coburn, R-Muskogee, proved Tuesday what he can do: win over free-market conservatives.
Whether he can sway Democrats, whose own health care proposals call for more government participation, remains to be seen. Coburn's bill, introduced two weeks ago, has been assigned to the Senate Finance Committee, which has broad jurisdiction that includes tax policy and entitlement programs.
The committee held a hearing on universal health coverage in March, and the chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said America should guarantee health care for all.
Baucus said he supported "pooling arrangements," contending that neither the employer-based system nor individual market could meet the demand for "affordable, portable, quality coverage."
Coburn's legislation addresses the private health insurance market, Medicare and Medicaid, and seeks to wring efficiencies out of the various systems while also giving incentives to states and individuals to ensure coverage for the 47 million people with no insurance. He also wants more emphasis on prevention of the most common diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.
Coburn, a physician, said problems in the health care system couldn't be fixed "by looking with a microscope at a small area. We have to look at it all at the same time."