Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Obama Health Reform Narrative

Prelude: Here is Grace Marie Turner’s “take” on the health reform story as of September 3. She is founder and president of the Galen Institute and is participating every day in various forums to discuss how she interprets President Obama’s proposals.

“ One of the things that happens in the American political conversation is that a narrative takes hold with the electorate. The health reform debate has become a nationwide campaign and, after seeing and participating in many town hall meetings this August, here is what I think the narrative has become.”

“The expansion of government control over our economy in the last year is frightening. The shocking debt we are accumulating is threatening our future and the future of the country we love. It doesn’t make any sense to spend another $1 trillion to try to save money on health care. Making massive changes to our health care system scares us and inevitably will lead to the government rationing our health care. We don’t trust the government with our money or our lives.”

“The health reform debate has touched core values in this country and that is why hundreds of thousands of people have taken time off from their jobs and families to show up at town hall meetings to tell their representatives in Congress (those who have been brave enough to hold town hall meetings) that they are frightened about the expansion of government control.”

“How is President Obama going to change that with a speech before Congress next week? I don’t have any idea because his problems with health care are interwoven with the fears the American people have about the overall direction of the economy and his administration. “

“If he thinks that he can put their fears to rest by giving voters more details about his plan, as reports indicate, it will do absolutely nothing to change the debate.”

“And what major policy changes could he make that are going to be dramatically different? The pillars of all of the major bills that have passed four of five key committees in Congress are based upon key health policy proposals that candidate Barack Obama offered in the 2008 presidential campaign -- a public plan, an employer mandate, expansion of Medicaid, and a purchasing exchange that would give significant new powers to the federal government to regulate private health insurance. “

“All of this involves more and bigger government, which is exactly what the American people are saying, as loudly as they know how, that they Do. Not. Want.”
“The president has backed himself into a very difficult corner and even a soaring speech cannot get him out of it.

Two examples:

• “Support for his health reform agenda among liberal activists largely depends upon his backing the ‘public plan.”’ They see that as a doorway to government health programs for all. But the public plan is the deal-breaker in the Senate. White House advisors are saying that the president may offer to put the public plan on hold and create it only if private health insurance doesn’t meet certain goals. That may get him the vote of Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, but it will not appease either supporters or opponents of his plan.”

• “Also, the president’s goal of achieving universal coverage by the end of his first term inevitably means imposing mandates on individuals to purchase health insurance. He avoided supporting this during the campaign but now says a federal requirement that everyone purchase health insurance is a prerequisite for universal coverage. That is a new level of government intrusion

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