Obama’s Call for Universal Health Care in Six Years Has Timing About Right

On Thursday, Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama declared his intention to achieve universal health care coverage in America by 2012, the end of (what he hopes will be) his first term in the White House.  In his speech to Families USA, Senator Obama said “while plans are offered in every campaign season with ‘much fanfare and promise,’ they collapse under the weight of Washington politics, leaving citizens to struggle with the skyrocketing costs.”

So his message is, the Obama Administration will find a way to make universal coverage a reality, but it may take him four years to do it.

I think he’s got the timing right. As noted in my previous post, President George W. Bush’s health care plan is unlikely to overcome a new, Democrat-controlled Congress and the early start of the presidential campaign. A new president — Democrat or Republican — will have an opportunity to actually make something happen. But it will take time and patience. If we’re lucky, the new president will have Senator Obama’s approach to achieving ideals like health insurance for all Americans: to stay focused on the goal, but to be “agnostic in terms of how to achieve those values.”

By being agnostic about the means, a president could actually achieve the desired end. On the other hand, a president could take a “my way or the highway” approach like the Clinton Administration did in the 1990s. The result from that effort: nothing much.