Obamacare Begins to Take Shape


Finally! Obamacare, the so-far elusive set of health-care reform proposals that the president wants to call his own, is set to arrive. After August proved a rough month for the administration's health-reform agenda, Obama appears poised to adopt what I'm going to call The Bob Dole Strategy, after the former congressman who pushed for it in a remarkably lame op-ed earlier this week: Take charge and offer up a plan of his own—and leave the public option behind. From the Politico:

Aides to President Barack Obama are putting the final touches on a new strategy to help Democrats recover from a brutal August recess by specifying what Obama wants to see in a compromise health care deal and directly confronting other trouble spots, West Wing officials tell POLITICO.

Obama is considering detailing his health-care demands in a major speech as soon as next week, when Congress returns from the August recess. And although House leaders have said their members will demand the inclusion of a public insurance option, Obama has no plans to insist on it himself, the officials said.

Effectively dumping the government-run insurance option is a good thing, but I suspect it will clear way for greater opposition to what's really at the heart of reform: the insurance mandate. For the last month or so, opposition has largely focused on the government's potential foray into the insurance market, which a lot of people think is a Trojan horse for single-payer. But I suspect that, with the public plan out of the picture, a lot more discussion will key in on the fact that liberal reforms will require lots of people—including many of the young voters who supported Obama—to shell out for potentially expensive insurance they wouldn't otherwise buy.
The other problem for Obama is that, by support a set of specific proposals, he opens himself up to specific criticism in a way that he's so far largely avoided. Those specifics will allow Obama to make his own case with more force, of course, but they'll also sharpen attacks against his proposals, and perhaps hasten reform's slide in popularity: Polling already suggests that the more people find out about health-care reform, the less they like it.  
In other words, health-care reform is still going to be a tough project for Obama. But maybe that's to be expected when taking political strategy advice from Bob Dole.