The Failure of Obama’s Health Care Reform

Obama Health Reform

Let there be no doubt, President Obama has lost the health care debate. Even if Obama and the Congressional Democrats are able to muster up the political strength to pass health care legislation, the costs will have been too high, and even in victory, the President will have lost. His presidency may very well never regain the sense of optimism and positivity that trailed his first months in office.

The central mistake of the health care debate, and the one the administration will look back on with regret, was the administration’s decision to outsource the actual writing of the bill to Congress. Without any clear direction beyond the President’s insistence that any bill include a “public option,” the debate shifted from the quiet dignified end of Washington to the madhouse known as the Capitol. Once there, the various factions and coalitions each worked to produce their very own fairytales. What emerged was a cacophony of decades-old wishlists, radical reforms and special-interest agendas that even supporters of health care reform couldn’t view seriously.

Lost in the noise on the capitol were a series of true reforms, such as tort reform, that were suppressed rather than ignored. Anyone who wants to reform health care without even talking about tort reform is not being serious. Congressmen like Henry Waxman don’t want to reform health care, they want to remake our system entirely, and they want the government firmly in control. In this way, they simply turn people into products.

Consider this report from Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal regarding Rep. Waxman’s (D-Van Nuys) tactics:

He ignored requests to wait to see if the Senate could produce, instead forcing a painful floor vote on legislation prior to the July Fourth recess. Members went home to be brutalized by constituents and local employers.

This high-handed treatment already had Blue Dogs loaded for bear, not that Mr. Waxman heeded warnings. When he again ducked into secret meetings to craft health-care legislation, a group of 45 members sent a letter complaining. “We don’t want a briefing on the bill after it’s written. We want to help write it,” declared Arkansas’s Mike Ross, chair of the Blue Dog health-care task force. Rebuffed, conservative Democrats delineated for Mr. Waxman what they saw as an acceptable bill. Rebuffed again, they asked Mr. Waxman to let the Senate go first. Rebuffed yet again, Mr. Ross took his case to the nation, with a revolt that has beat down the House bill for weeks.

Mr. Waxman’s subsequent negotiations with these members—in which he reportedly showed little concern for the political challenges of anyone outside of Los Angeles—made matters worse. Blue Dogs stormed out of one session, with Louisiana’s Charlie Melancon bellowing: “I’ve been lied to. We have not had legitimate negotiations.” Mr. Waxman, for his part, declared he was “not going to let [Blue Dogs] empower Republicans to control the committee.”

When this is the kind of behavior we get from our elected leaders we should not be surprised when congressional approval levels are so low. The most recent Gallup poll showed an approval rating of just over 30%, and more importantly a disapproval rating of 62%. After the automobile and finance industry bailouts, a highly partisan stimulus package that only 3 Republicans deigned to vote for, a massive budget, the health care reform package was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was too much too soon, and the American people reacted. The town hall meetings, though fraught with their own imperfections, remain the only outlet the vast majority of American citizens have left to vent their frustrations.

The summer has seen countless images of congressmen being shouted down by their constituents. What is even more telling than the shouting is the shock and awe of the elected leaders. They simply do not understand why the people aren’t on board.

This is what they don’t get.

The American people are not on board because deep down they know that health care reform was never an attempt at reform, but instead a massive and risky overhaul, a land-grab by the federal government into one area of their lives that is supremely sacred, that of personal health.

No sane person defends our current health care system as a model of efficiency or fairness. It’s not and it needs to be fixed. But adding another giant entitlement program onto the obligations of our already beaten federal treasury is not a solution. Not at time when Social Security and Medicare are already threatening the country with insolvency.

The Democrats and, in particular, President Obama, failed to link their health care reform plans to the larger issues facing America. They simply seized a rare opportunity at almost-unchecked power to install a fairytale dream of theirs. American’s may never be so easily fooled again, at least not on Mr. Obama’s watch.

Join the discussion

  • Little too early to call it a failure, in my opinion. Here’s some facts : 75% of America wants a health plan for thoses that aren’t covered.Out of the million bankruptcies each year, 1/2 are due to medical bills. This week the Republicans announced that there would be no healthcare reform, no how.The Obama administration waited on republicans assuming they were bargaining in good faith. They were not.BTW, have you noticed the the leading Republicans have all taken in a million or two each from thr Healthcare lobby? I bet it’s just co-incidence.Kim Strassel works for WSJ, owned by FOX/Rupert Murdoch. Big surprise they’re against it.
    We are the only nation in the top ten industrialized nations to not have comprehensive healthcare for its citizens.we will never be competitive in the worldwithout it.Oh BTW,The auto bailout and the TARP was initiated by the Bush Administration. You DID know that, right? I agree about tort reform, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.Oh and those “town hall protests” ? You do know they were orchestrated by the Healthcare lobby , Freedomworks, Dick Armey et al . Anyone making millions of dollars per year has a deep vested interest in the status staying quo.
    Anyone paying attention can poke ten more holes in your thesis-I only had ten minutes.

  • The Obama administration certainly did NOT wait on republicans. They charged ahead and outsourced the work to the liberal wing of the congress, which effectively shut out any republicans, oh and many democrats as well. Democrats have taken plenty of money from the health care companies and insurance companies as well. Kimberly Strassel wrote for the WSJ before Murdoch took over, but either way what are you insinuating about Murdoch? Yes TARP and the auto bailouts were orchestrated by the Bush administration but it was the Obama administration that forced them to declare bankruptcy, in order to restructure and give control to the Unions. The bottom line is whether the Democrats are able to pass Health Care reform or not, it has come at a huge political price, considering that 59% of Americans now believe we are, once again, headed in the wrong direction

  • The author seems content to argue from the same, tired out republican point of view that government run programs are socialism or another form of so-called “entitlement programs”. (A true misnomer considering that both medicare and social security are paid for by the people.) But, the observation that Obama left it all to congress to dither out the details is the most apt one. And quite frankly, the one that shows how inept Obama has been at arguing for what he wants. Here, he says, to congress, just fix it. And wa la, there you have it, real health care reform!

  • TG thanks for the comment. I think at this point, with a majority of American’s against health care as it stands now, the people have spoken. The reality is that this is just a way to get more people on the government dole and is in no way reform in that it does nothing to address the incredible rising costs of health care in this country. The costs will go up and up, and eventually, there will be less coverage

    • I think america has lost the plot here, all the Pesident wants to do is give every one in the US a basic health care cover, so say yes, its a really good idea, and then tackle those institutions that profit at ridiculous levels with appropriate legislation, do not be defeatist in seeking a basic human right in a civilized world, but be stauch in questioning the the status quo and the excessive greed in this industry and take them to task, as they are at present those controlling the costs.