Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Obama's Screwed

Nobody is looking forward to President Obama's speech on health care more than I am, but my expectations are not very high. The Republicans have put a major hurt on any effort for substantive reform and Obama's prerequisites: universal care, decreasing costs, etc., were never being realistically addressed anyway.

Sure, Republicans had one great point: that "governemnt-run" health care always costs more than anticipated. But I would add that the reason it always costs more is largely due to Republicans adding things like Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D drug benefits. In the 1980's Reagan signed a Medicare reform package that was really just an addition to the trust fund without any cost containment. Any new entitlement, no matter how well it is instituted, will be expanded and mismanaged once Republicans regain control of government. What they are really saying is 'stop us before we kill again.'

So now we are left with a process in tatters. No existing bill fulfills the president's requirements and the partisan rancor is through the roof. Sure, some bill might be passed so that both sides will be able to claim vistory: new regulations for insurance companies, non-profit co-ops to replace the "public option", elimination of pre-exiting illnesses, token tort reform for the GOP... but the chance for real reform is lost.

And the Republicans, relishing their role as opposition party, are not done yet. Any attempt to control costs will be criticized as "rationing", roiling seniors. Every concrete piece of any proposal will be torn apart with individuals coming forward to bemoan some lack of coverage or some new tax penalty because of the "Democrat's health care reform bill."

The Democrats will gain nothing over this debacle, certainly health care will not be delivered more efficiently, and the Democrats may even lose control of the Senate by 2012. Daresay, there is enough angst among liberals that Obama's re-election may even be in jeopardy. And if that happens, no president will ever touch health care again.

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