Bad Health-Care Reform Won't Just Be Bad Now, It Will Continue to Be Bad For a Really Long Time


I haven't been terribly impressed with Republican opposition to health-care reform, which seems driven far more by political concerns than actual policy disputes. Just as Obama wants to pass a health-care bill, any health-care bill, to retain his political strength, Republicans seem to be looking at the debate primarily as an opportunity to take down a political opponent who desperately needs to pass a health-care bill this year in order to keep his edge. So most of the talk of not rushing the legislative process, for example, is being done largely in hopes that it will slow down the reform train enough that it will eventually just shut down altogether. But despite the GOP's blatant political opportunism, they do have a worthwhile point, one articulated by RNC Chair Michael Steele in today's New York Times:  

The blunt-spoken Mr. Steele expressed astonishment that Congress, pressed by Mr. Obama, was trying to complete its ambitious health-care plans before its summer recess begins in the first week of August, saying, "If we screw this up, it could last a generation."

Steele can be a goof, but in this case, he's right. As previously noted, the incentives for Democratic leadership—and even more for Obama—are simply to pass a bill, the bigger the better, no matter what's actually in it. The Washingtonese excuse for this is usually "it will create a framework," but that just translates into "we just want to pass something, declare victory, and then spend a while basking in the warm glow of fawning press coverage." But Steele's right: If a bill gets passed now, it—and all of the problems that Congress shrugged their shoulders at when they passed it—will be with us for decades. And, as years of tinkering with Medicare and Medicaid have shown, Congressional "fixes" usually just end up making them worse. Like unwanted house-guests and new movies starring Keanu Reeves*, once problematic government programs are put into place, it's almost impossible to get rid of them.  
Browse Reason's complete archive of health-care coverage here.  
*Granted, Point Break is pretty awesome.