What was once seen as preordained now seems problematic.
A massive reworking of the American health care system, with government as a central player, was thought to be unavoidable with the election of Barack Obama and large Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. But gradually, as the public and conservative opposition has mounted, there is a real question as to whether we actually will see health care "reform" -- at least anything resembling what liberal Democrats have pined for these many years.
The idea of health care reform -- like "New Politics," or "hope and change" -- was most viable when it was most abstract. The CBO cost estimate of more than a trillion dollars and gradual disenchantment with a public option plan has stalled the health care reform train.
And now Congress seems stuck. Roll Call reports:
Capping off a month of intense negotiations on health care reform, a bipartisan group of senators who serve on the Finance Committee released a statement Thursday pledging to continue their effort to reach a consensus on legislation when Congress returns from its July Fourth recess.
"Reforming America's health care system is a tremendous challenge, but it's a challenge we simply have to face," the senators said. "The issues facing reform are difficult and complex, but over the past several months, we've made progress toward workable solutions. As we have been for the last several weeks, we are committed to continuing our work toward a bipartisan bill that will lower costs and ensure quality, affordable care for every American."
Various members of the Finance Committee met privately at least three times on Thursday but were not scheduled to meet again until after the July Fourth break.
While opposition mounted and Congress thrashed about for a solution, the president -- with considerable assistance from ABC -- tried once again to sell his brand of health care to the American people. But few tuned in and platitudes no longer will carry the day. The hard questions remain: what will be in the plan and how are we going to pay for it?
As details have come to light, criticism has increased and lawmakers have become more nervous. James Capretta explains that voting for the ObamaCare scheme may prove to be very unpopular:
The largest tax increase in decades, which would hit the middle-class too. The movement of tens of millions of people out of job-based coverage and into government-run insurance. Deep, arbitrary, and cost-shifting cuts in Medicare's reimbursement rates. Job-killing mandates on employers. And, most especially, the prospect of government intrusion into medical practice and the rationing of care. These are all highly unpopular steps with most voters, and the Democratic strategy is predicated on somehow getting all of them passed in one bill.
Republicans and conservative activists have also gotten into the act. A health care open hearing sponsored by Americans For Tax Reform this week turned out a variety of activists -- plus Senator Jim DeMint and former physician and current Congressman Tom Price -- to make the case that health care reform need not amount to a government takeover of health care. DeMint's plan echoes to a large degree John McCain's campaign proposal: provide credits for individual health care purchase, rein in trial lawyers, and allow interstate insurance sales to bolster competition and reduce costs.
Ever so slowly the voices of administration critics are being heard. Following Wednesday's ATR event, Shona Holmes of Patients United Now told Pajamas Media that Americans should be wary of going down the road which her native Canada and other countries like Britain have followed. Slowing losing her sight, she faced long waits for a specialist in Canada. Holmes came to the U.S. where she was promptly diagnosed with a brain tumor at the Mayo Clinic. If Americans go down the road of government-run, rationed care, she asks, where will they go for treatment?
And then there is Rick Scott who leads Conservatives for Patients Rights. He was also in attendance at Wednesday's event and has begun an ad campaign to show the future of ObamaCare. CPR's message: a government-run "effectiveness" board will put government bureaucrats in charge of, and ultimately ration, health care. By shedding a light on the plight of those in nationalized health care systems with patients who are forced to wait for vital care (and with doctors who must scam the system to obtain care for their patients), Scott's group directly challenges the premise of ObamaCare -- namely that it will improve health care in this country.
Word is slowly seeping out that Congress intends to have government boards provide binding advice on which procedures and treatment will be provided. As Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a physician and AEI fellow, points out: "The idea of an omnipotent board that makes unpopular decisions on access and price isn't a new construct. It's a European import. In countries such as France and Germany, layers of bureaucracy like health boards have been specifically engineered to delay the adoption of new medical products and services, thus lowering spending."
Time is not on the side of those pushing for a government takeover of health care. As the public, Congress, and critics discuss what ObamaCare really means, the prospect of a massive new tax scheme, uber-regulation of health care insurance and procedures, and an unprecedented expansion of the scope and size of the federal government raises more and more doubts.
Do we really want the people responsible for Katrina, the Post Office, Amtrak, and the Obama stimulus plan delivering health care?