Ramesh Ponnuru On The Obama Administration On Health Care Reform

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on August 9, 2009

A very good rebuttal to, and re-examination of the typical White House talking points:

There are two basic points about health-care reform that President Obama wants to convey. The first is that, as he put it in an ABC special in June, “the status quo is untenable.” Our health-care system is rife with “skewed incentives.” It gives us “a whole bunch of care” that “may not be making us healthier.” It generates too many specialists and not enough primary-care physicians. It is “bankrupting families,” “bankrupting businesses” and “bankrupting our government at the state and federal level. So we know things are going to have to change.”

Obama’s second major point is that–to quote from the same broadcast–”if you are happy with your plan and you are happy with your doctor, then we don’t want you to have to change … So what we’re saying is, If you are happy with your plan and your doctor, you stick with it.”

So the system is an unsustainable disaster, but you can keep your piece of it if you want. And the Democrats wonder why selling health-care reform to the public has been so hard?

And there is this as well:

Health-care reformers send out mixed messages on the uninsured as well. The moral imperative of improving their health care is what drives the passion of most liberal activists for reform. But when you read the liberal policy analysts, it quickly becomes clear that getting young and healthy people to pay more in premiums than they will spend on medical expenses is the point of forcing them to buy insurance. Which is it? In aggregate, are we trying to rescue the uninsured or bilk them? Is reform something we are doing for them or to them?

The reformers’ speed belies their words as well. If health-care reform is so critically important, as they keep insisting, why not take the time to get it right? Hard as it is to believe, at one point Obama was urging the House and Senate to pass legislation by three weeks after they began debating it.

In its own way, the Obama Administration has floundered as badly as the Clinton Administration did in seeking to enact health care reform. The only difference is that the Obama Administration benefits from greater Democratic control over Congress. That may save their health care reform efforts in the end.

Not that it deserves to.

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