How to Make Enemies on Health Care

Why liberals began abandoning ObamaCare


Barack Obama hoped to unify the nation, and he is making impressive progress toward that goal. Last week, he created common ground between Howard Dean and conservatives. They agree on one thing, which is that the health care reform package produced by the Senate and endorsed by the president richly deserves to be voted down.

Conservatives have always opposed ObamaCare because it involves too much government. Now liberals are abandoning the administration's plan because it involves too little. Dean and Co. are bitter that the bills in Congress offer neither a "public option"—a government-run insurance program—nor a provision letting those from age 55 to 64 buy Medicare coverage.

It's OK to alienate people at each end of the political spectrum if you please those in between. But the so-called moderates on Capitol Hill are proving no help to the president. On the contrary, they have discovered that the middle of the road is an ideal place to block traffic.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), once thought to be open to supporting the plan, now says she probably won't. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), got his way when the Senate dropped the government-run options, but even he is not a sure "yes" vote.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), denounced attempts to use "artificially generated haste" to get the bill through, which doesn't make her sound like she's on Obama's side. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), is holding out unless he gets tighter restrictions on abortion coverage.

Even proclaimed supporters make it clear they are settling for a pale facsimile of what they really want. Obama seems to have created a split between those who are critical of his efforts and those who are ungrateful.

So he may not get an overhaul passed at all. If he does, it may cost him control of Congress in next year's elections. In the worst (or best) case, it may help unseat him in 2012. In any case, it won't make him a lot of friends anytime soon.

But Obama has no one to blame except himself. He made the mistake of thinking that because Americans elected him on a promise of overhauling health care, they agreed on what that means. If Americans were unified on a plausible change in the system, however, they probably would have gotten it long ago.

The reality is that either they don't know exactly what they want or they want things that are incompatible—more benefits and lower costs, more regulation and less government, lower premiums, and life eternal. They demand change while demanding the preservation of everything they like about the status quo.

Health care "reform" is hard because a given goal is likely to come at the expense of another. According to a recent George Washington University Battleground Poll, 41 percent of Americans think the main goal should be lowering costs. But they don't really mean it.

Lowering costs is easy: Just reduce benefits. But try that, and you'll be charged with plotting to ration treatment and set up death panels. What people generally mean when they say they want lower costs is that they want to pay less without getting less. Heck, yes.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 51 percent of Americans don't want Congress to pass a health care bill this year, with only 44 percent favoring legislation. The longer the debate goes on, the less support there is.

Granted, many of them may have only the vaguest idea of what the legislation would actually do. Ignorance about government programs is often bliss, but in this case, complexity and impenetrability work against change.

Major changes in our economy and social welfare system need a broad public consensus, which does not exist on health care. Given that most Americans are happy with both the quality of care they get and their own insurance coverage, they see more to lose than to gain from any alteration they don't understand. Doing nothing is the default option.

Everyone regards the bill too hot or too cold, too big or too small, too soft or too hard—never just right. When it comes to changes in health care, Obama is discovering, the average American is not Goldilocks. More like the princess and the pea.



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  1. He made the mistake of thinking that because Americans elected him on a promise of overhauling health care…

    Too many Americans who voted Obama didn’t do it for his campaign promises like healthcare reform, they did it as a rebuke to Republicans. (See the article linked at my name.)

    Anyway, it doesn’t matter until the midterms now. The Senate voted (without reading it) to move the legislation along. The House will fall into line and it will be law.

    1. And of course Steven Chapman was one of those Americans, now trying to pretend that he’s not getting on this issue exactly what was promised by President Obama (and Secretary Clinton) in the campaign on healthcare.

      Chapman’s getting what he voted for. On this issue, Obama’s doing exactly what he said he would, unlike on other issues. I don’t see how Chapman has room to complain.

    2. You forget that between Hillary and Obama, Obama was actually the more conservative. He promised that with his health care plan, health insurance would not be mandatory – there would be no individual mandate as he is now proposing.

      So even among people who voted for him, he went back on his word, big-time.


  2. We can only pray that something happens to block this. And call our representatives.

  3. P’m hoping there are many court challenges ready to fight this.

  4. If the Prez would step in front of a camera and declare, “This bill will end incomprehensible ‘This is not a bill’ statements from insurance companies,” Americans would line up for miles to take turns licking his palms.

    Thankfully, the Dems will make the whole health care experience worse, lose office, and then we can return to the idea of “insurance” as payer of last resort.

    1. I suspect the plan is more like “Let’s make the insurance companies look so bad, because of how much they’ll have to raise their rates to comply, that we can nationalize this.”

  5. Steve Chapman

    1. Who are you voting for in November? Barack Obama, for two main reasons: The Republican Party, which has jettisoned its best inclinations and indulged its worst for the last eight years, richly deserves exile from the White House, and 2) because he shows an intelligence and temperament that suggest he will govern more pragmatically than ideologically?the best that can be hoped for from a Democratic president.

    Fuck you, Steve Chapman.

    1. Fuck you, Steve Chapman.

      That’s telling him. Brief and witty.

      1. I’m not a Steve Chapman apologist or anything, but its probably worth noting that he votes in Illinois. Whether he voted for Obama or McCain wouldn’t have made the least bit of difference.

        Of course I’d prefer he’d done what I did, which was to vote third party for president and straight Republican on everything else as a very slight, ineffectual “fuck you”–but a fuck you nonetheless–to the people in charge here.

    2. because he shows an intelligence and temperament that suggest he will govern more pragmatically than ideologically?the best that can be hoped for from a Democratic president.

      Chapman is an idiot.

    3. and everybody else who voted for the little turd.

  6. I don’t understand why anyone would expect Obama to be something other than what he is. His behavior can’t come as a surprise. The Republicans, weighed down by the Bush legacy, offered a weak, liberal, waffler as an alternative to an articulate african american Harvard graduate who made Ted Kennedy look like a wallflower. And 45% of the electorate still weren’t buying it. Maybe they were confused and didn’t now that the best way to elect a president who will govern pragmatically, is to vote for the progressive, black guy from Chicago whose friends include Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers. I think even libertarians can get carried away sometimes. Better luck next time Steve.

    1. The financial crisis happened at a pretty opportune moment for the President, if terrorists had attacked right before the elections I suspect Sen McCain would have won. The media sucking up to Candidate Obama didn’t help either. The President never would have been nominated if Rev Wright came out during the Iowa caucus, especially if they had uncovered Edward’s mistress before then too. Hilary would have torn him apart.

    2. A lot of independents were (understandably) so disgusted with Bush that they engaged in a lot of hope and willful suspension of disbelief with Obama. But the good news is that the veil has been lifted from many people’s eyes. The poll numbers are plain for everyone to see: the country has the biggest case of voters’ remorse in American history.

  7. One issue with Chapman is that a smart single payer system or something like France’s system could arguably involve less government than this convoluted monstrosity. This plan takes everything that is wrong with our system and makes it worse, even the mandate isn’t very strong. Its just like kind of a little fuck you to the young, but not strong enough to change behavior such as to avoid the massive adverse selection problem the government is creating by restricting medical underwriting and “discrimination” based upon pre existing conditions. Personally, I want to be able to drive my car around getting all the speeding tickets and accidents I want while still only paying the same insurance premiums as a 40 year old housewife driving a cheap subcompact. I’m being DISCRIMINATED against!

    Health care is a human right! If no one is forced to pay for all the health care I want my rights are being violated and my care is being rationed! Other people only own their bodies and the fruits of their labor when my health needs are satisfied.

    The President knows what the average American wants, stuff for free; and he is attempting to craft a complex government plan to make it look like the government is giving such stuff to them. It’s like Medicare and SS, despite being massive generational theft old people get stuff for free thinking all those benefits accrue to them from the meager amounts they paid over their lifetimes; and none of the Republicans have the balls to say this aloud. It’s also why there are seniors against this “government takeover of medicine” that threatens their Medicare. I don’t know whether or not to laugh or to cry.

    The best part of the bill is that seemingly none of the normal things suggested as health reform are in it! From the right or the left! No tort reform, no cheap generics and imported drugs, no public option, single payer, or medicare buy in, nothing attempting to deal with payment models, nothing attempting to deal with portability or decoupling health insurance from employment. It’s absolutely retarded!

    1. Agree 100%. A single payer system would have some advantages if people would accept that care has to be rationed. This bill is the worst of both worlds.

      Chapman is right that most Americans who favor “reform” either don’t know WTF they want or they want a bunch of shit for free.

    2. Well said, Tim.

  8. About the only good news is that the Democrats are going to pay dearly come November.

    1. But not dearly enough.

      1. Hang ’em ALL. Dems and Reps are just playing 2 sides against the middle class anyway. Just a facade puppet show and the Filthy Leach Bankers are pulling the strings.

    2. What are the Republicans going to do when they get in power? I’m not sure why they even oppose this bill, they support crap like guaranteed issue; which can only work with a mandate. They won’t touch Medicare, because they based their entire opposition around stupid rants scaring seniors. With a few swipes at abortions and illegal aliens of course.

      1. They will do what they did from 2000 to 2004. Spend just like a democrat.

  9. There are no price controls on health care services.

  10. Obamacare = Cloaked Euthanasia for Baby Boomers. You’re too expensive and now that the Filthy Leach Bankers have all your wealth, you simply must die. Nazi US Govt. Long live the Fatherland.

    1. It is going to be interesting indeed to see what the communist scum in America will try to do when Medicare is completely stone cold broke within the next five to ten years. The possibilities are a little chilling.

  11. Just great we go to the US to escape are own government run health care and now this? What are we supposed to do now?

    1. Canadian,Do what other Americans are doing because they can’t afford health care here either:”it is estimated that approximately 1.3 million Americans traveled abroad to seek healthcare and this figure is expected to double by 2010.”

  12. A Canadian said:

    Just great we go to the US to escape are own government run health care and now this? What are we supposed to do now?

    Are you kidding? The pro “universal” healthcare people have being telling us for years how wonderful everything is up there in the Great Frozen North. We needed you to step up with a dose of reality check before now.

    1. The trouble with us is that we go along thinking that its great that we have universal health care and that there is little reason to change it. Supposedly its one of the things that “makes us Canadian”. The illusion is quickly shattered when we actually experience the system first hand.

      The only way it actually holds together is entirely because of the US system picking up the slack for us. We’ve been piggybacking on it for years and when the free ride comes to an end and we face the true cost of our beloved “free health care” I am willing to bet we will be heading in the opposite direction as fast as possible.

      1. A Canadian, You certainly have all the talking points. You note that Canadians are “thinking that its great that we have universal health care and that there is little reason to change it.” What is so different about your experience from that majority? “the US system picking up the slack for us. We’ve been piggybacking on it for years and when the free ride comes to an end and we face the true cost of our beloved “free health care”” Please justify your talking point.

        1. Well there are people who confuse universal coverage with universal access, and there was a Canadian supreme court ruling that being added to a waiting list is not the same as access to health care. It’s a similar phenomenon to the U.S., basically as long as you are healthy and getting the amount of medical care you want you tend to support the system; that’s why tons of people are satisfied with the U.S.’s clearly sub optimal system. Average middle class folks get a nice subsidy to their employer health plan, while Medicare hasn’t yet run out of money for old people and the young are relatively healthy and too ill informed and busy watching crappy reality T.V. to care if they don’t have insurance.

          Canadians also like many other countries that control the price of prescription drugs free ride on the American drug market that allows drug companies around the world to recoup development costs by selling them in America. However, since Pharma got in bed with the President real quick; that free ride isn’t likely to end soon.

          Finally, its important to note that countries like Canada and the U.K. are the worst of the socialized systems; that’s why they get referenced a lot by people against more government in health care.

          1. Tim, We can all agree there is no doubt that we all can retrofit any health system as technology/knowledge ameliorates . If “tons” or otherwise known as the majority of people were truly satisfied we would not be discussing health care in the US. Those who receive their health care subsidies through their employment are aware of the inflating cost while not having a clear understanding of employer contributions. The “busy watching crappy realityT.V.” AKA the BMW payment red herring does not invalidate people who have paid insurance in good faith and have lost it due to health/cost factors. “its important to note that countries like Canada and the U.K. are the worst of the socialized systems; that’s why they get referenced a lot by people against more government in health care”. I always find it interesting that Canada and the U.K. are quoted as the worst in public hc because it alludes to the fact other public health systems are the best. Drug research expenses are inflated due to tax benefits and research funding through universities: “data provided by the industry ? suggests that after-tax R&D costs ranged from $57 million to $71 million for the average new drug brought to market in the 1990s, including failures.” Libertarian often day their is no free ride but I think the exception may be the pharma industry.

            1. It only implies that the other socialized systems are better than Canada’s and the U.K.; not that such other systems are the best over all other alternatives.

              There are plenty of people satisfied with the current insurance situation in this country, content to do nothing rather than just reform. Most Republicans would not be talking about health care if the Democrats weren’t attempting to reform it.

              It’s also not quite that simple to retrofit any system with whatever tech you want, when the costs of doing so are left up to political debate rather than concerns about whether or not people would be willing to pay for such things. I’m sure many people in Canada and the U.K. would pay more for things they can’t get now or can’t get on a timely basis; as evidenced by medical tourism. However since costs are left up to public debate, those demands aren’t met because the politicians set arbitrary spending levels so they don’t have to raise taxes even more.

              1. Tim, whether plenty of people are satisfied about health care does not negate the fact that the Democrats promised health care and they were voted into power. I am not so sure a Republican government would not have tried to bring about some changes in our healthcare system. Did President Bush not bring about a Medicare drug prescription plan? Did community Health Clinic Funding Doubled Under Bush? Americans are the most frequent consumers of medical tourism and not countries with public health.

  13. Although it’s dated today, this column is completely out of date and appears to have been written last week. Please, more truth in labeling!

  14. It’s not the Americans who are to blame for not knowing what we want. It’s the politicians’ fault for blocking it. They are the ones being paid off by the insurance companies. Most Americans favor a public option.

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