Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Baby Steps

I'm going to admit defeat in the health care reform debate. I'm just going to get out ahead of the White House and Congress and admit that there is simply no middle ground in this debate. I'm not talking about the middle ground between the Democrats and Republicans. I mean there's no middle ground between Democrats and between the Houses of Congress. It is becoming more clear that congress may pass a bill with a public option, but the senate never will.

It's time for the White House to retreat to a defensible position. I believe that the debate got away from the President when he was unable to define exactly what health care reform would mean for most Americans. The genie is out of the bottle at this point. There is no way to get the sweeping change that was promised through the Congress this year. The Right has done a masterful job of bringing out all the hot button issues to bear on this debate, from abortion to illegal immigrants. The administration spends so much time trying to combat these bogus charges (which more than 50% of the public believe by the way) that it's message has gotten lost.

I have a plan though. I'm not sure that anyone will follow it, but I do think it might actually be more effective. Health reform this year should be limited to introducing new regulations for the Health insurance industry. The legislation should make it illegal for the insurance companies to either deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or drop someone once their application has been approved. The last regulation should be that the lifetime caps on coverage should be eliminated. That's it. No mandates for universal coverage, no mandates for employer coverage, no public option, no single payer. Just some common sense regulations that will make the insurance companies policies a lot more equitable. The Republicans will of course oppose the legislation on some far fetched ground, but it will be easy to explain to the people and all Democrats should be able to get on board with it.

If those major insurance regulations could be pushed through this year, the President could claim a major victory. It's is now pretty clear that health care reform has to be done in smaller steps. It is apparent that something as complicated as a major health care overhaul is simply too much for the majority of the people to understand and is subject to the most spurious of attacks. The people have to be force fed their medicine. Perhaps if we give it to them in small doses they'll never be aware of how much they've actually swallowed. I say the President takes on one health care initiative a year as part of his planned agenda. Explain one thing at a time, have a unified message, and that will make it all less scary for most Americans. Perhaps this is the approach that the White House has. Maybe they've been planning this all along. I know that the President is much smarter than me and so are the people working for him, so I would find it hard to believe if I'm the first to come up with this idea.

This effort cannot go to waste. Substantial insurance reform would be a giant step in the right direction. If you have been watching and listening to the President closely during his recent town hall meetings, he has subtly turned his mentions of reform from health care reform into health insurance reform. Could that have been his goal all along? Maybe. Or maybe I'm just dreaming.


SJ said...

You make a good point about the mounting need for various regulations on this industry, but as you've said, the Republicans still won't vote for it.
I suppose what's more important is that the Democrats probably will vote for regulation and consumer protection, be they "blue dogs" or some other euphemism for sell outs.

Jack Jodell said...

Mycue23, I've been mulling over this post all week, and I think you may be on to something.

When the Repubs were trashed and Obama emerged the clear winner last November, we progressives were overjoyed and thought that, at long last, our agenda would quickly be enacted and the wrongs of the previous 30 years would be righted in relatively short order.

We were wrong.

Not because the majority of the country doesn't think as we do on a number of issues - they do. But because the wheels of government turn very slowly. The forces of reaction in government are significant enough to impede progress. Add in the influence of big money and the situation is made even worse. We're not going to win this health care or other progressive battles with back to back grand slams. Instead, we're going to have to do it one hit at a time. We've already got men on first and second. Are we going to leave the batters box and head back to the dugout? Absolutely not. We're gonna hang in there and try for a bloop single or a double down the line to knock in a run or two until we've won. We're only in the 3rd or 4th inning here. We've gotta dig in our heels because there's a lot of game left. The Yankees sucked big time at the start of the year. Look at them now---by hanging in there and chipping away constantly, they are now quite formidable and may go all the way!

Civil rights finally came about after many "bloop singles" too. First there was Truman's integration of the armed services. Next came Brown vs the Board of Education. Then came Rosa Parks and the bus boycott, along with numerous civil rights marches. Then came the Voting Rights and Civil Rights acts. It was a long, gradual process getting to where we are today. But we wouldn't have gotten this far had we not pressed and kept on pressing. So, too, will it be with universal national health care.

We've got to be patient, but we've also got to persevere. Don't despair. We shall win, and we WILL overcome!

Mycue23 said...

Jack, I was worried that I lost on this one. It is not a defeat to get major insurance reform. I am worried at this point that either the blue dogs or the progressives may take a hard line and sink any chance at reform this year. There was an article in the WSJ on Wednesday that suggested that the Democrats may actually take this direction. The article said that they may try to seperate the insurance reform from the rest of the bill in order to guarantee that they get something accomplished this year. I think it would be an almost indefensible position to oppose insurance reform. The Republicans may not vote for it based on their general opposition to more government regulation but I think that it would easy to sell it to the public. I would hope that the Democrats would not give up the baby with the bath water. It may seem like a defeat to limit reform this year to the insurance companies, but I would consider that a great victory. And a huge step along the way to true health care reform. As I said in a previous post, it is the moral imperative of this generation and perhaps our last best hope to start down this road before circumstances force us to do something much more drastic.

Jack Jodell said...

It would seem to be much too politically devastating for the Dems to fail to pass SOME kind of health care bill. As is often the case, we'll have to - for now, at least - be happy with 15% of something as opposed to 100% of nothing. And, through ongoing perseverance, we'll have to keep pushing that 15% to become 33%, then 65%, and then finally get everybody covered without exclusion or recission. We WILL win, and in our lifetime, too. Keep pushing, my friend.