Monday, February 8, 2010

The Health Insurance Show

The president announced over the weekend plans to hold a bipartisan session to discuss moving health care legislation forward. Minority Whip Eric Cantor is reported to have responded that "unless the President and Speaker Pelosi are willing to scrap their government take over and hit the reset button, there’s not much to talk about." Further, "Republicans have offered the only plan, that will lower health care costs, which is what the President said was the goal at the start of this debate." The Republican leadership followed up these comments with a letter seeming to demand that the Democrats admit that their whole effort to reform the health care system was a mistake and agree to start over, otherwise Republicans may not participate.

To enter a negotiation saying that the Democrats' plan (versions of which have already passed BOTH the House and the Senate, and need only to be reconciled to become law) is unacceptable, and the minority plan is the "only" acceptable plan, does not sound like a promising way to kick off a genuine bi-partisan debate. Either the Republicans are merely posturing, and some may eventually support a revised bill, or they are still just trying to kill reform.

On the Democrats' side, one has to guess that their plan is either to push or cajole some Republicans into supporting the eventual bill, or more likely, to expose the Republican opposition as unable to meet the administration's announced criteria for reform. Either way, the Democrats hope to increase public support for the health insurance overhaul, which will provide Congressional Democrats with enough cover that they will be able to vote for the final bill without undue fear of losing their seats. Thus for both sides, actually making a deal with the opposition may be a secondary goal to influencing public opinion. That means we should not expect the upcoming meetings to be conducted like a real negotiation, but should instead view them as an educational exercise for the public. What other kind of debate would we expect to see in an election year?  We might as well sit back and enjoy the show.

1 comment:

  1. I am troubled that the "leaders" of the GOP misrepresent Health Care reform or fail to correct the many misrepresentations: the government has not taken over health care and there are no Death Panels.
    We should also remember that Ms Clinton attempted health care reform about 15 years ago and the GOP made sure it did not advance. Health care did not once come up during the tenure of Mr Bush. The GOP did not appear interested. Now it appears that they just want to kill what Mr Obama has been able to put together. Is this the best that can be? I would guess not. But, when the republicans refuse to participate and act like 2 year olds - who want what they want and want it now - why should they be included at all?