Health Insurance Reform

I’ve been following the twisted, repulsive politics of health insurance reform pretty closely, and as cynical as I might be, I am still pretty down about just how bad-faith the politics of all of this have been.  (And yes, I’m looking at Joe Lieberman.)  There have been a couple of things I’ve read that stuck with me.  For example, from No More Mister Nice Blog, a look at how the so-called left could have negotiated for health insurance reform:

As far as we know they agreed to use Congress and the Bill Making process as a bargaining chip to be bargained *away* instead of as a threat to induce compliance. What I mean is that they offered to squelch real reform–drug reimportation, the public option, etc…etc…etc… in return for a promise of funds to be disbursed later instead of pushing for the most drastically radical bill they could get and then backing off it. Similarly, Obama and Rahm preferred to keep the grassroots quiet as a gift to the deal making process, instead of using populism as a tool to force the best bargain. Instead of activating their own voters and pressuring Pharmaetc with popular rage and populist demands O and R told the most progressive members of the coalition–MoveOn for example and the Unions, to keep their mouths shut.

The whole post isn’t that long and well worth reading.  There’s an old cliche about FDR telling his political supporters that they had to make him pass the New Deal.  He wanted to, but he had to be seen as responding to political pressure.  I think HCR (or HIR) could have been the same way – Obama, as the link above notes, could have presented himself as the moderate choice in comparison to the ‘crazy’ left, and used that position to suggest that he had to support certain positions.  But he didn’t.  And as a result – well, you know.  Instead, the Democrats chose to actually punch the hippies.

The second bit that caught my eye was this, from Ezra Klein, who has looked at the policy and politics of HCR pretty intensely:

My sense is that the Obama administration attempted a low-risk political strategy for itself. By eschewing any strong commitment to the public option, they made it easier to sacrifice something that they always figured they’d probably have to lose. It’s telling that in all the coverage of the death of the public option, you haven’t seen stories saying “Obama administration dealt huge defeat in Senate.”

But in doing so, they betrayed a bond that the left thought it had with the young administration. And that’s made this a much higher-risk strategy for the bill, and thus for the White House, too. If the Obama administration had been firmer on the public option and only let it go after grueling negotiations that ended with a concrete agreement on the bill, it’s possible the administration would have had a better case to make to progressives.

This is interesting because while the common response has been some sort of “progressives really should have known Obama better,” I think that is actually kind of wrong on this.  The politics he’s employed over HCR seem really disconnected to the rhetoric employed by Candidate Obama.  Second, fairly or unfairly, I agree with Klein:  He’s destroyed a lot of trust.  He’ll pay for that, as will down-ticket democrats in 2010.

But more than either of those has been the unforgiveable display from Lieberman.  His transparent attempt to hurt his political opponents has resulted in changes to the bill that are estimated to save less lives.  The fact that this isn’t seen as crossing some sort of line – well, what more is there to say?

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2 Comments on “Health Insurance Reform”

  1. Russ Says:


    I understand your viewpoint of Lieberman, but what about Nelson and Landrieu? They essentially got bought off. I kinda have more of a problem with that, although they do represent their respective states. I think Lieberman should have held off until he got paid! He did a little political grand standing, but so what? I wonder why our senators didn’t hold out for more? How come Oregon isn’t getting our medicaid paid for like Nebraska?

    I read your letter to the editor in the paper ysterday, and agree with some parts of it. I don’t think there is ANYTHING in there to lower costs, but there is a lot of experiments to attempt to lower costs. I think that is a good start. We will never truly lower costs until we have some sort of rationing done. That may have been easier with a public option as we could have rationing by mandate. I also don’t think you are correct on the costs in Massachusetts. the last article I read (and not from FOX) said the costs have sky-rocketed. (Part of that is probably from the physician shortage and more people going to the ER for care.)

  2. Dennis Says:

    Lieberman was only in it to cause pain. He didn’t want to get paid for his constituents – they disagree with his grandstanding in the first place. Nelson and Landrieu I really have no explanation for.

    And people – Merkley, for example, I hope – didn’t hold out because they wanted the damn thing to pass. Because for some of them, I like to think they actually supported the bill because they support increasing the number of people with insurance coverage. It wasn’t just politics for them.

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