The Politics Of Health Care

As we’re moving towards the August break for Congress, Obama’s health care proposal seems to be sucking wind. It’s not dead, but it appears to have lost some momentum.

Why is that?

Well, first of all, you have to understand that the American people want diametrically opposed things. They want the quality of their health care to remain the same or even improve, but they also want the cost to be dramatically slashed as well. Although, the free market has pulled this trick off on more than a few occasions (See computers and flat screen TVs to name a couple of examples), the government is an extraordinarily poor tool to use to try to accomplish this feat. The government is extremely expensive, inefficient, and has already done such a poor job of handling Medicare that it’s threatening to bankrupt the country.

The Obama Administration has dealt with this quandary by simply lying; they claim that socialized medicine will provide the same level of care, cover more Americans, and actually cut costs. This is, of course, bilious bullflop, which is a big part of the reason Obama wanted to slam this bill through before the August recess.

The longer health care stays in the public eye, the more objections are going to be raised to it. Combine that with the American people’s sensible skepticism about radical changes and you can see how damaging it may be for the bill to be sitting out there for the entire month of August, getting picked apart piece by piece.

…..And it’s also worth noting the totality of what’s being done here: it’s a takeover of 1/6 of the US economy by the federal government. That’s an incredibly large and complex undertaking that is going to affect large numbers of competing interest groups.

Liberals are going to demand a public option in order to kill the insurance companies. The insurance companies are going to call in all their chips to fight back.

Doctors and hospitals that are already furious that they’re not being paid what they’re worth by Medicare are not going to like the idea that the government may soon be underpaying them for the non-Medicare patients they see as well.

One of the most obvious places to cut costs is via tort reform, which would cut billions in excessive lawsuits and defensive medicine costs — but, of course, the trial lawyers’ union is going to do everything it can, probably successfully, to keep the money rolling in.

Meanwhile, there are all sorts of disagreeable parts of the bill that different members of Congress are alternately demanding be included or taken out. Health care for illegal aliens, denying people operations, killing private insurance via the public option, etc., etc.

Then there’s the deficit issue. Because Obama has already spent so much money, there’s great reluctance to go further into the hole for socialized medicine — but, realistically, there’s simply no way that millions more people can be covered, reams of red tape can be created, and an enormous new government bureaucracy can be created without costs exploding.

Again, Obama realizes this and it’s why he was so desperate to get the bill passed before the August recess. Of course, he may get his wish in the House. While that may add a bit more momentum to the process, it would also give critics of the bill something tangible to talk about all through August. That’s why getting a bill passed in just the House wouldn’t necessarily help as much as some proponents of socialized medicine may believe.

So, long story short, will the bill pass? It’s impossible to say for sure at this point, even though the odds appear to be getting longer. This bill is one of the highest long term priorities of the Left and you have to ask: if not now, then when? If the Democrats can’t push the bill through with the numbers they have now, they may just have to give up on the idea. That’s going to be a tremendous motivating factor that may lead them to pass a bill even if it turns out to be extremely unpopular with the American people. Still, if I had to bet, I’d have to say that not getting a bill done by the August recess probably means that it will be too unpopular by September to make it through. Time will tell.

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