Marketplace Scratch Pad

Reframing the health care debate

Scott Jagow Aug 19, 2009

The story of the day seems to be how President Obama might save his health care reform plan. Does he need to stop getting bogged down in details and think big picture? Or is it the other way around?

We’re working on a story about this for Marketplace tonight, so I’ve spent the morning reading as much as possible. It’s difficult to get a grip on where this thing is headed. Here are few of my picks, starting with some viewpoints in The New York Times. Peter Wehner has worked for the last three Republican administrations:

As a general rule, it’s hard to succeed as a salesman when you don’t have anything in particular you’re selling. In that respect, President Obama has over-learned from the failures of HillaryCare. In that instance, the Clinton administration wrote a bill under the cloak of secrecy and attempted to ram it down the throat of Congress. In this instance, the Obama administration has deferred almost completely to Congress, which means it has lost control of the process and is creating enormous confusion. Witness the last few days, when the administration distanced itself from the “public option,” which riled up liberals and forced the White House to re-embrace what it will eventually have to jettison.

Harvard professor Theda Skocpol:

Will President Obama settle for new rules and population mandates that guarantee monopoly profits to private insurers? Or will he fight for a robust public option — or better yet for letting individuals and businesses buy into Medicare if they choose to do so? It is not at all clear what he will choose. But his choice will define his legacy.

Democrats would be better off to go down fighting for real reform, rather than to impose an insurance company tax on working and middle class Americans by forcing them to buy private insurance at inflated prices.

From a young Republican’s view in the Examiner:

Democrats – “We can’t do nothing – nothing isn’t an option! If we don’t do this now, people will die! It’s all the evil insurance companies’ fault!”

Republicans – “If this plan goes through, government will take over your lives! They’ll ration your care! They’ll decide who lives and who dies!”

Question – with all the advice and proposals and ideas circulating around America, with public support for reform high, but support for this reform in its current state low, why aren’t the necessary nips, tucks, and alterations being made?

From a young Democrat’s view in the Examiner:

When folks are talking about what health care is really like here, no one says that the system we have is beyond reproach. I’ve personally talked to folks, after the calm down and quit frothing at the mouth, that make suggestions for health care reform that are already in the bill.

When one side is saying that we need to reform a health care system that is currently rationed out to the point where 1 out of 7 red-blooded Americans get nothing, and the other side is carrying around high powered assault rifles to rallies, it’s time to end the debate and bring it to a vote.

The Democrats have the votes needed to pass legislation. The Republicans have made this a proxy fight against Obama himself (very little they say, and their media motormouths repeat, has anything to do with the legislation as proposed).

Bring it to a vote and do the job the majority of Americans elected you to do.

And finally, perhaps the spoof newspaper, The Onion, is onto something:

After months of committee meetings and hundreds of hours of heated debate, the United States Congress remained deadlocked this week over the best possible way to deny Americans health care.

“Both parties understand that the current system is broken,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Monday. “But what we can’t seem to agree upon is how to best keep it broken, while still ensuring that no elected official takes any political risk whatsoever. It’s a very complicated issue…”

The legislative stalemate largely stems from competing ideologies deeply rooted along party lines. Democrats want to create a government-run system for not providing health care, while Republicans say coverage is best denied by allowing private insurers to make it unaffordable for as many citizens as possible…

“When you get into the nuts and bolts of how best not to provide people with care essential to their survival, there are many things to take into consideration,” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said. “I believe we can create a plan for Americans that allows them to not be able to go to the hospital, not get the treatment they need, and ultimately whither away and die. But we’ve got to act fast.”

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