Americans’ views of the upcoming bipartisan health care reform summit will differ greatly: their ideologies and existing opinions concerning health care reform will color how they view what unfolds at Blair House on February 25th. Those in the center and right will hear talk of new government agencies and programs, new federal rules and the regulations, and wonder why those on the left are so disappointed. Isn’t what President Barack Obama proposing an unprecedented incursion by the federal government into health care? What more could the left want?
What liberals want is a single payer system. Often couched as Medicare for All, liberals hoped last year the new Administration would move forward with a complete remake of America’s health care system. Not they had much basis for such wishful thinking. Candidate Barack Obama made it clear that he would not be pushing for a single payer system if elected. After the election he made clear the private carriers would be a central part of the country’s health care system (single payer advocates would do away with health insurance companies).
In short, a single payer was off the table pretty early. But that doesn’t mean it was forgotten. I was watching Senator Bernie Sanders call for Medicare for All on one of the news stations earlier this week.
As we approach the Amidst the accusations that President Barack Obama is refusing to compromise on his health care reform package, it’s worthwhile intention to lead a government takeover of health care in the United States Dr. Quinten Young, national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program, attacked both the House and Senate health care reform bills as “disastrous.” In a Huffington Blog posting, Dr. Young called on President Obama to “lay out the facts to the American people and provide energetic leadership for this eminently rational proposal.”
Not going to happen. Consider the current status of Medicare’s finances. Representative Paul Ryan, writing in Newsweek magazine this week, notes Medicare “is short $38 trillion of what it promises to provide your parents, you and your kids. In five years, the hole will grow to $52 trillion. Your family’s share: $458,000.” It’s also worth noting that the single payer bill recently passed by the California State Senate (and likely to be passed by the State Assembly then vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) has a price tag of roughly $200 billion. As noted: it’s not going to happen.
Which explains why liberals are so dismayed when President Obama’s health care reform plan fails to include a government-run health plan to compete with private carriers. Unlike moderates and conservatives who see this (to varying degrees) as a compromise, liberals view the lack of a public option as the elimination of a compromise they already agreed to. They want a single payer system. They were willing to accept a public option. Now that’s off the table, too?
People feel passionate about health care. The issue is personal, political and policy all wrapped into a complex mix of laws, regulations and history. Which is why many observers believe the bipartisan summit will be little more than political theater (I disagree for reasons I’ll put in another post later today). And people will naturally interpret what happens tomorrow based on their own view of health care reform policy and politics. The perspective for liberals seeking a single payer system will be that of an ever shrinking loaf, leaving them with little to celebrate – in their view.
As noted, however, the left’s disappointment is unsurprising, and the fault of their own misinterpretation of election night 2008. Democrats increased their majorities in both chambers of Congress. Democrats won the White House. Progressives interpreted these results as the triumphs of liberalism. They were not. They were triumphs of the Democratic Party – a party that includes moderates and conservatives. Just as all Labradors are dogs, but not all dogs are Labradors, most liberals are Democrats, but not all Democrats are liberal.
No one knows for sure what will emerge from the health care reform summit. But a safe guess is that liberals will be further disappointed.