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Health Care Reform: How Could this be Happening — Again

Editor’s note: Greg Scandlen’s take on the current thoughts in Washington on health care reform.


Maybe it was Palin Derangement Syndrome, but I think it is deeper. I think these folks are completely baffled and frustrated by what is happening. It is all slipping away – yet again!
How can this be, they wonder. We have big majorities in the House and Senate. We have a smooth talker in the White House. We have bought off the special interests. We have learned from the Clinton mistakes. We have done everything right. How can we be losing again?
There are two big reasons.
First, they believed their own propaganda. For years, these folks have cherry picked the data and exaggerated the problems to make it seem like there is a BIG CRISIS! They did this to justify changing American health care from top to bottom and gain more power for themselves. That is fine as a tactic. It’s a way to stampede less informed people, especially the media, into echoing your talking points. But if these folks actually believed it, they are bigger fools than I realized. People have been talking about a CRISIS in health care since the 1960s.
In a remarkably candid interview in 2001, Brandeis economics professor Stuart Altman said, “When I was 32 years old, I became the chief regulator in this country for health care. At that point, we were spending about 7.5 percent of our GDP on health care. The prevailing wisdom was that we were spending too much, and that if we hit 8 percent, our system would collapse.”
Obviously the system did not collapse, even though the share of GDP now exceeds 15 percent, and the fear mongers were proven to be blowing smoke. But that didn’t stop the exact same people from pitching the exact same line every year since.
The other reason is that the current advocates completely misread the lessons from the Clinton years. Every generation of new parents swears to not make the same mistakes their own parents made. So they make a bunch of new mistakes instead. So it is here.
The advocates have convinced themselves that Clinton was defeated by a small cabal of Washington special interests who spent a lot of money opposing the plan. They figured if these special interests could be neutralized, it would be clear sailing. Plus they figured Clinton’s big mistake was in writing a massive bill in secret with little Congressional participation, so if they let Congress write it, everything would be okay.
They were wrong on both counts. In fact in 1993 – 1994, there was the same kind of grass roots fervor there is today. People in Washington didn’t notice it. They only noticed what the special interests were doing, and assumed that any grassroots concerns were orchestrated by these special interests. Not true then, and not true today.
On the second point, the issue isn’t who wrote the massive bill in secret. The issue was that it was then, and is today, that a massive bill was written in secret at all. The folks don’t care is it is written by a Congressional elite or a White House elite. The simple fact that any elite group is massively changing everything about their personal health care with the sweep of a pen is enough to raise alarms.
Every time over the past 100 years that Washington has tried to enact massive health reforms affecting every man, woman, and child among us, it has been defeated. Not by the insurance companies and not by the doctors, but by the people of America. It is, quite plainly, not how we want change to be done.
Yes, we may want change to happen, but we want it to be gradual, so it can be revised and amended as we go along. Why is that so hard to understand?


August 21, 2009 - Posted by | Federal Government, healthcare | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. What is most frustrating is the quest for a public option when logic and experience tell us that such an approach is neither warranted, wanted or efficient. There is much to do in reforming our system so let’s get to it and stop trying to fix what isn’t broken.

    In our quest for affordable health care we tend to overlook one good example of how government defines and applies that idea, it can be found in Medicare and I suggest you take a look at this article:

    Comment by rdquinn | August 25, 2009 | Reply

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