People talk about the “Obama Health Care Plan” like there actually is one. The president has proposed some worthy high-level goals, but he hasn’t provided any details about how we can accomplish those goals. You still have a chance to influence the process of developing a plan, but it’s critical that you make your voice heard now, before it’s too late.
Obama may have decided on his health care strategy after seeing the fate of the Clinton reform plan. The Clintons went to Congress with a plan, and Congress took that plan and tore it to pieces. The reform movement collapsed before Congress had to present an alternative plan of its own, so Clinton absorbed the fallout from the failure, and the Republicans took over Congress in the 1994 elections.
President Obama appears to be biding his time, hoping for a sensible plan from Congress, or for an increase in pressure from the public to implement some kind of reform. So far, he hasn’t invested any of his own political capital to nudge the discussion towards a resolution. Maybe the president thinks that public disgust with business as usual will allow him to swoop in with a plan towards the end of the process and ram it through to approval. If he can get Democrats on board, he does have the votes to pass a plan no matter how the Republicans vote.
The vacuum created by the lack of a plan from the President has allowed the “vast right-wing conspiracy” crowd to mobilize against a mythical version of “Obama’s plan.” Since there is no concrete plan, you can be confident that their opposition is based solely on partisan politics. There’s no plan, so every detail they rail against has to be made up out of whole cloth. But that doesn’t stop them from coloring the debate, making it more about irrelevancies like the “death squads” or the lie that England’s health care system wouldn’t have allowed Stephen Hawking to live. Some key players admit their goal is to block changes, rather than help create a successful reform plan.
Underneath the public discussion, Congress is quietly putting together a “reform” plan that basically protects the existing structure, perpetuating the existing problems. Why? The health care industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars (dollars you paid, that were supposed to go towards your health care) lobbying and contributions. They’ve bought a seat at the table to protect their interests.
I strongly recommend that you read the excellent job Matt Taibbi does in describing the whole sordid process in the September 5th Rolling Stone. (At this time, there are videos of Taibbi discussing his story online – the full article is usually posted after the issue of the magazine goes off sale.)
Economic uncertainty is fueling the public’s interest in health care reform, the way it did back in the Clinton years. In 1993, when the economy improved the public lost interest in change, and the chance was lost. Now, 16 years and trillions of dollars later, in the midst of an even worse recession, we’re trying again. Support the effort. Decide what you want, and then let your government officials know. If you don’t, someone else will.