A Last-Ditch Effort on Healthcare Reform

It seems safe to say now that a comprehensive reform of healthcare in the United States is not going to pass. President Obama unveiled his own plan, which closely resembles the Senate’s version of the healthcare overhaul. A political email I received today described it as “little more than a regurgitation” of the Senate plan. Tomorrow’s televised health care summit has already been criticized, with both Democrats and Republicans stating that it is very unlikely to break the stalemate. In some ways this is sad, and in others, not surprising. Having learned the lessons from the Clinton era, the president outlined the features he wanted included, and then left the details to Congress. This seemed to wisely contrast with the 1993-4 effort, which was undertaken using secret backroom work, and the result dropped upon Congress in the form of a giant stone tablet. The result was quite predictable. If the current effort fails, the political fallout will take center stage. Blame may be assigned in having attempted the task without real bipartisan action. But is such cooperation realistic with an issue as huge and as complex as healthcare? It may be more plausible to work within existing programs, adding incremental tweaks rather than attempting to reshape 1/6th of the economy by force. Large-scale healthcare reform may be beyond what our political system is able to achieve. Of course, healthcare is already undergoing significant change. If comprehensive reform is ever again taken up by our executive or legislative branches, the system then is likely to be very different from what it is now.


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