Why bipartisan health-care reform has proven impossible

Sara - posted on 11/15/2010 ( 6 moms have responded )

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Why bipartisan health-care reform has proven impossible
By Ezra Klein

"Every time we moved toward them, they would move away." -- Hillary Clinton, 1995.

As an addendum to the previous post, it's worth thinking about partisanship and health-care reform not in terms of President Obama, but in terms of presidential efforts over the last century or so. And that story has gone something like this: Democrats moved right every time they failed. And Republicans moved further right every time Democrats tried.

The original idea, of course, was a national health service run by the government. Harry Truman proposed it and fell short. Lyndon Johnson got it for seniors and some groups of the very poor. But Republicans said that was too much government, and it was unacceptable for the whole country. They proposed, through President Richard Nixon, an employer-based, pay-or-play system in which the government would set rules and private insurers would compete for business.

That didn't go anywhere, because Democrats, led by Sen. Ted Kennedy, weren't ready to give up on a national health service. By the 1990s, they were. President Bill Clinton proposed an employer-based, pay-or-play system in which the government would set rules and private insurers would compete for business. Republicans killed it. Government shouldn't be telling businesses what to do, they said, and it shouldn't be restructuring the whole health-care market. Better to center policy around personal responsibility and use an individual mandate combined with subsidies and rules making sure insurers couldn't turn people away. That way, the parts of the system that were working would remain intact, and the government would only really involve itself in the parts that weren't working.

That was what Sen. John Chafee -- and Bob Bennett, Kit Bond, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch and Richard Lugar -- proposed in 1994. It's what Mitt Romney passed in Massachusetts. And so it was what Democrats proposed in 2010. The Republican answer? "Hell no, you can't!"

By this point, there were no more universal health-care approaches for Republicans to hold out as alternatives. So they just turned against the idea entirely. Cato's Michael Cannon organized "the anti-universal coverage club." John Boehner released a bill that the CBO said would cover 8 percent as many people as the Democrats' plan.

So over the last 80 years or so, Democrats have responded to Republican opposition by moving to the right, and Republicans have responded by moving even further to the right. In other words, Democrats have been willing to adopt Republican ideas if doing so meant covering everybody (or nearly everybody), while Republicans were willing to abandon Republican ideas if sticking by them meant compromising with the Democrats. But because Democrats were insistent on getting something that would help the uninsured, they've ended up looking like the partisans, as they keep pushing bills Republicans refuse to sign onto.

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Jenny - posted on 11/16/2010

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Spin it all you want Christa but you can clearly see how the Reps plan is changing and moving farther right from where they used to stand. THAT is the point of this thread, not the election. What the election proved is many Americans are incapable of critical thought, don't like sacrificing and expect instant results.



It also proves something else, the Republicans are just the party of no. They just don't have much to offer.

Christa - posted on 11/16/2010

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Sarah, that was 17 years ago, so the picture of the US is drastically different, which is going to create different opinions on the correct action forward. And one could ask if the Dems are ok with it now why weren't they ok with it then? It goes both ways.

Jenny, the most recent election doesn't uphold your view, so . . .

Sara - posted on 11/15/2010

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That may be true, but the fact still remains that the plan the Dems proposed was very close to the same things Republicans proposed in the 90's in the stead of the Clinton UHC push, and now they want to repeal it? When it was their idea in the first place?

ME - posted on 11/15/2010

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yes...this does seem to be the case...Republicans make the rules, dems try to play by them, reps change the rules...You'd think all the american people would be getting tired of this insanity!

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Christa - posted on 11/15/2010

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Oh please. Both sides are equally to blame to not being able to compromise. THIS is the problem with Washington, BOTH sides are too busy making anything the other side’s fault that NOTHING ever gets accomplished. It's really quite sad.

This article is really all about perspective. It goes back to that thread where I was told Obama/Pelosi/Reid were moderates. To the left these people are apparently in the center but to the right they are still the extreme left. So while people may view the Dems as “coming to the middle” on healthcare. To those of us on the right we still see them way over on the left. It’s all about perspective.

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