One issue Isakson discussed was health care. He described three major points that any good health-care package should have.
The first is small business access to health insurance. He said small businesses should be allowed to join together to form risk pools that can compete with larger corporations in the insurance market.
The second is allowing insurance companies to compete across state lines.
The third point involves people covered by government programs who are not enrolled. Isakson estimated one-third of the uninsured are covered by Medicare, Medicaid or SCHIP but are not enrolled in any of the programs. He said an automatic enrollment system should be in place.
“These are the three primary first steps, which should address two-thirds of the uninsured,” he said. “That’s the beginning.”
He said later steps should include a focus on wellness and disease management. Healthy people, for example, should pay lower premiums than unhealthy people in order to give people incentives to take better care of themselves. “Disease management” covers programs to encourage healthy living — half of Medicare’s expenses came from diabetes- and hypertension-related causes.
Isakson also discussed the tri-state “water war” between Georgia, Alabama and Florida. He said he hopes the three states will reach an agreement on dividing the water but described what Congress can do.
“Congress needs to tell the (Army) Corps (of Engineers) to come up with a plan to prioritize the use of water during a time of drought,” he said.
He said there are 40 reservoirs in 14 states that supply drinking water even though their original charters do not authorize this. Lake Lanier was in a similar situation until a court order said drinking water could not be withdrawn from the lake after 36 months. Isakson said in the absence of federal direction, water allocation will end up being decided by courts and environmental lawsuits.
Isakson also spoke about his proposed tax credit for first-time home buyers. He said housing got the country into the recession and will get the country out of the recession.
When asked if the credit could encourage a new housing bubble, Isakson said the bubble was caused by loans that did not include down payments, had “teaser rates” and did not include verification of borrower incomes. The credit market is much tighter now.
“The money you borrow today in the current market is tightly underwritten, so you would not have an inflated value and a poorly underwritten loan,” he said.