Health Care Reform: Foundering

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on June 20, 2009

Ever since the realization that the Obama Administration’s plans for health care reform actually cost a lot of money, there has been a dramatic slowdown in the effort to craft and pass a reform package. This is a good thing; prior to the CBO’s scoring of the Administration’s plans, there was little debate on the issue of health care reform, with the Obama Administration and its allies seeking to ram through a legislative package by the end of the year to take advantage of the President’s perceived popularity. While this plan would have been good for the political prospects of the Administration and its allies, it would have been bad for the crafting of actual policy. And from time to time, we are actually supposed to care about policy.

The newfound hesitation of the political class now appears to be mirrored by the sentiments of the public:

As health care reform legislation moves forward in Washington, the political environment is somewhat different than the last time a major overhaul of the health care system was attempted sixteen years ago. In early 1993 the sense of a health care crisis was far more widespread than it is today – a 55% majority in 1993 said they felt the health care system needed to be “completely rebuilt” compared with 41% today. Health care costs were also a broader problem in 1993 – 63% of Americans said paying for the cost of a major illness was a “major problem” for them, compared with 48% currently.

The issue of limiting overall health care spending is also more prominent in 2009 than it was in 1993. Somewhat fewer today say the country spends “too little” on health care, and a larger share believe that limiting the overall growth in health care costs is a higher priority than expanding coverage.

Immediately following the excerpt is a statement that “public support for guaranteed access to medical care for all Americans remains widespread.” But if the Clinton Administration could not “reform” health care with greater public approval on its side, the Obama Administration should be worried about its own prospects.

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