Framing Developments in the Health Care Debate

President Obama is pushing for universalish health care to be passed before the end of the month. The GOP, Blue Dog democrats, and others want him to slow down. So far, the plunging presidential approval ratings and public support for the current health care plans are leaning towards the right. If the president wants to get this passed, he’ll have to work on his Billy Mays sales pitch. If opponents of the health care idea want to win, they need to realize their message will be short lived.

Right now, opponents are focusing on the fact that Congress is moving too fast. And they are solidly right. Any time Congress moves fast on something they screw it up. With this in mind Mitt Romney made a plea today for the president to take his time. Given that the former Massachusetts governor is one of the few Americans with first hand experience in developing significant health care reform, the president may be wise to listen to him.

But what are opponents going to say in two months if Congress does take its time in passing the massive spending bill? Because the reality is that Massachusetts, for all its careful planning, wound up with healthcare reform that is unsustainable, more expensive for the state and residents than before, and causing people to leave the state, hurting the economy. Congress doesn’t need to slow down, it needs to stop.

The more important issue that critics should be focusing on is what the spending bill will do.

  • First, we’re creating a public option that will eventually create the same problems we face with the unfunded liabilities of Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Second, we are severely compromising the affordability of private health insurance by pitting the government against private firms.
  • Third, the quickly becoming famous “Section 102” of the house bill is a near death blow to many private insurers.
  • Fourth, the proposed taxes will hurt production and destroy small business in the middle of a recession. And that is bad even in an economic boom. (My colleague Shikha Dalmia wrote about this earlier today.)
  • Fifth, the bill is seriously threatening states with unfunded mandates that are scaring the progressiveness out of even the most left leaning governors. (See Reason’s Sam Staley on this issue from earlier today.)

And that doesn’t even get into things like the effectiveness of what is proposed, the fact that it leaves people uncovered, and the ultimate tragedy: a discussion on the missed opportunity this will be to reform the health services system by making it more transparent, getting rid of costly regulations for the drug industry (which would bring down prices), making lawsuits against doctors more reasonable, and addressing the reasons that health insurance is high in the first place—high prices in the provision of health care.