Friday, February 24, 2012

The Reform Game

Come, Watson, come! The game is afoot.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1904)

February 24, 2012 - March is nearly here, and the political health reform game is afoot. Both sides are in spring training, the unified Democrats in Chicago and Washington, and the divided Republicans in play-offs across the fruited plain. Much of the of the game is concentrated in the “Swing States”, where the outcome – the number of Electoral College votes –hangs in the balance and where the winner will emerge.

This year is different for these reasons.

The umpires, not the players, may determine the winner. In March, the umpires – the nine Supreme Court judges- begin hearing arguments on whether Obamacare is constitutional and whether government has the power to run Medicaid programs in the states. Conventional wisdom has it that the judges will declare the health reform law unconstitutional by 5 to 4 because of the Court’s political makeup. But, the world’s largest prediction market, disagrees. Bettors there predict only a 37.8% chance the Court will rule the individual mandate unconstitutional.

The public – Voters look unfavorably upon the health reform law by 49.8 %to 37.3 % , 12.5 %, margin - the average consensus of national polls as compiled by Real Clear Politics. Those favoring repeal outnumber those opposing repeal by 50.7 % to 39.7 %, a 11.0 % margin. In the polling world, these margins are landslides, and could be factors in November.

The political players - Democrats naturally favor the health reform law and its mandates, but given the public polls, Democratic enthusiasm is mooted. Democrats rarely mention health reform as a leading campaign issue. Republicans are uniformly for repeal of Obamacare, but they have a problem. When Mitt Romney was governor, Massachusetts passed Romneycare, said to be the prototype for Obamacare. Romney says his first act as President would be to repeal Obamacare, but first he must explain Romneycare and why it differs from Obamacare.

The imponderables – These include concerns over the national debt, government intrusion into individual and religious liberties, government health care rationing , the fragile economy with unemployment, rise of gas prices and energy costs, handling of red hot issues of immigration and Iran’s nuclear threat.

Tweet: The ides and vibes of March are nearly upon us, and the march towards health reform solutions in June and November has begun.

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