Sunday, August 23, 2009

More on Health Care Reform

The national debate on health care reform has provided the most entertainment in the political circuit since Sarah Palin’s debut last year, just about at this time.

We had the new version of the “do nothings” shouting down politicians and their fellow citizens alike at town hall meetings. We have the wild and crazy campaign of misinformation featuring the “death panels” who will decide who deserves treatment and who will be left to die. Other misinformation includes the idea that the government is taking over health care (therefore people would lose their existing coverage).

Perhaps most amusing is the right wing pundits comparing Pres. Obama to the Nazis. This last one is especially absurd if you recall the Arian supremacy plank of Nazism and happen to notice we now have an African American President.

Legitimate Concerns

There are some legitimate concerns about change. Many of us have good coverage at work and don’t want to see an end to this. (See my post on this topic.) Also, many like me have pre-existing conditions and may not be able to get coverage if we lost what we have.

So, there are many that have good or decent coverage who don’t want government messing with it. With this I agree.

Need for Reform

The basic need is simply the rising cost of health care. Not far behind this is the clear cross-subsidies where those covered are paying for those without insurance or those whose policy does not pay the full cost of insurance.

While many realize this problem, I’d say many are content to keep the status quo. After the recession and market fall, the rich and middle class are still risk adverse. Thus, even people who have rationally examined the issue are not open to change.

Basis of Proposals

As President Obama has explained, the idea is not to replace existing coverage, but rather to add a government program to compete with the private sector plans (e.g., employer plans, individual plans, group plans).

As a point of reference, today, there is a large, popular and successful federal government-run medical insurance program known as Medicare. This flies in the face of many of the arguments of adding another national program.

Possible Political Tactic

So, why all this opposition, particularly that organized by the right and by Republicans?

My theory is they are following the 1994 playbook. First, they put up a strong opposition to the Clinton health care reforms. Once this opposition was seeded in the populous, it was not long until this translated into widespread opposition of Clinton programs and then midterm victories for the Republicans.

As I see it, this full-court press on health care is not about health care. It’s a strategy to swing the American popular opinion from the Obama camp to the Republican camp, paving the way for Republican gains in the House and Senate in 2010.

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