Give Democrats All The Rope They Need on Health Care
A piece of advice for the new congressional Republican minority: give the Democrats as much rope as they need to hang themselves with health care.
Everyone admits that health care is in desperate need of reform. There are already 47 million uninsured Americans, and that number is only going to grow during the economic downturn. Health care commitments are slowly strangling businesses, and even people with health care are watching their premiums rise rapidly.
According to exit polls, the economy dominated as the top issue for voters, but terrorism, Iraq, and health care all basically tied for second. In four years, the majority of American troops will be out of Iraq. And regardless of what happens to the economy, it is unlikely (for good or ill) that it will not be in "crisis" mode. Already, 2/3 of voters are worried about the cost of health care, and the vast majority of those voters voted for Democrats. If nothing is done, it is impossible to imagine that health care won't grow as a decisive issue.
Ideally, the GOP would come up with their own free market solution to the health care crisis and own the problem. That has not happened and likely never will. John McCain's health care plan was a sick joke. Try to make everyone privately buy insurance with $5,000 refundable tax credits! How is this fiscally responsible and not "spreading the wealth around"? The overhead cost of simply sending a bill, depositing checks, and processing 100 million individual Americans would be over a billion dollars. Finally, McCain's plan would make it easier for insurance companies to cherry pick customers and not cover preexisting conditions. This would leave the million Americans who most need health insurance (those will diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, AIDS, etc...) without it.
John McCain's plan was not the answer to our health care woes, and I don't think the Republicans could ever come up with an ideological solution. Health care simply can't work on free market principles because no one wants to die. I can choose what car, TV, or phone I buy, but I can't choose my body. If I don't want to or can't pay for car insurance, I can choose not to drive. If flood insurance is too much, I can move to a drier climate. If I don't have health care, I die. While one can shop around for a primary care doctor, that is not the source of most health care expenses. If I'm being rushed to the hospital while having a heart attack, I don't really have time to do some price comparisons. If my appendix bursts, I either get expensive surgery, or I die. If there is only one medication for my fatal disease, I literally have no choice but to pay any price. There is not a free market solution to health care because there is a lack of freedom. You normally can't wait, can't shop around, can't choose an alternative treatment. Either you get what you need now (at any price), or you die.
If the Republicans are smart they will let the Democrats push through whatever universal health care plan they want and allow them to take the issue off the table. Of course, they can't allow it to look like they are giving up. The Republicans will make a public protest warning about all the new problems the plan will create (and like any large change, it will create a bunch of unforeseen problems), setting themselves up to capitalize on the birth pains caused by the new program. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Republican senators will trade their non-interference for concessions on other issues.
Democrats could easily become victims of their own success. With the war in Iraq brought to an end and health care dealt with, they will lose two of their most powerful rallying points. They will also be forced to own all the problems of the new health care program. American voters have short memories. Let the Democrats deal with health care, and it is possible that Republicans can quickly turn the national debate back to friendly ground of taxes, crime, and family values.