Monday, January 25, 2010

What’s Next for “Health Care Reform”?

Last week’s stunning turn of events in the Senate election in Massachusetts should have been a Hollywood movie. No one would have ever made it though because it was so inconceivable that a Republican could have won the seat previously held by a Kennedy for 54 of the previous 56 years.

Our favorite pronouncement by the pundits and Chatty-Cathy bobbing-heads on cable television shows was that somehow, someway, this one election spells the ‘doom of ever having health care reform pass Congress in our lifetimes!’

Cue the “Apocalypse Now” theme music….

Nothing could be further from the truth, ladies and gentlemen. What Senator-elect Scott Brown’s ‘Miracle in Massachusetts’ means is that this particular ‘version’ of health care reform is most likely doomed from ever passing in total. And with good reason…the more the American public learned about the outrageous cost and expansion of federal government power into their health care decisions, the less they liked the whole idea.

Only 36% of the American public has a favorable impression of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid bill. 42% of Americans believe in UFOs. Apparently space aliens are more popular with the American people than this particular health care reform bill.

The President was quoted as saying: ‘Once we pass this bill, we can explain it to the American people and then they will like it!”

Huh? What? Excuse me? We thought that was what free, open and transparent public debate on the floor of Congress as televised by C-SPAN before passage of the bill was supposed to do. Oh well….

And when you throw in the extremely unfair special deals cut for Senators Landrieu (The Second ‘Louisiana Purchase’); Nelson (“The Free Medicaid for Nebraska Act”) and the special deal cut for labor unions to enjoy high-coverage ‘Cadillac’ health plans while non-union workers got shafted, then there is no wonder why the American people got so fed up with this bill.

It sounded and smelled so much like ‘business as usual’ in government…except this time in Chicago gangster-style fashion.

For reasons too numerous to mention here, health care reform will not pass under the so-called budget reconciliation route (read this fine explanation from a former Senate Budget Committee expert Keith Hennessey...if you dare). Unless you have ever seen such a reconciliation beast constructed and then ground like sausage through a hog rendering plant, you would never believe just how next to impossible doing comprehensive health care reform that way can be.

It ain’t happening that way.

Can it happen if the House just passed the Senate version? Sure, except Speaker Pelosi has already said she can not get the votes in the House to do so. The House is about as different and divided from the Senate as Democrats are from Republicans, which is not unusual in Washington.

However, make absolutely zero mistake about this: Some form of meaningful health care reform has GOT to happen or else. In the next 15-20 years, every available tax dollar sent to Washington in the form of income, (personal and corporate), payroll, excise, and estate taxes will be spent on 4 mandatory programs: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on the national debt.

So how could health care reform happen?

It could happen just like any other major piece of legislation has ever passed the US Congress. It could start at the center and branch out to garner the votes of center-to-left and center-to-right Members and Senators who are willing to negotiate and compromise to get something done for the best interests of their nation. Not their political party or favorite special interest.

You know, sort of like they did in Philadelphia way back in 1787 when those guys ‘compromised’, (yes, ‘compromise’ and ‘negotiate’ were not ‘four-letter words’ back then) and brought forth a new nation and all that.

One question that intrigued us when we spoke with old friends on the Republican side of the aisle in Washington about the progress of the health care bill over the past year was this: “What would your boss do if comprehensive tort reform was plunked down on top of this Obamacare bill, just like they already have in the Great State of California?”

There was a lot of stammering and stuttering before finally saying: “Well, we don’t have to worry about it because the Democrats won’t even talk to us!”

But what if they did? What if every side of this argument could get exactly what they wanted in terms of say 3 out of their top 10 priorities but have to swallow 3 out of the other sides’ top 10 priorities?

One definition of a ‘good piece of legislation' used to be where you were ‘mostly happy’ about what you got but every side got poked in the eye on some issue of importance to them. No one was 100% happy and no one was 100% completely unhappy…more like 60-40 on most fronts.

And you live to fight again next year, maybe with a different Congress or President, depending on how the people respond, react and then vote in the next election.

Could health care reform happen now in the aftermath of the Massachusetts Senate election? Yes, it could. But Obama advisors are signaling a charge further to the left. So where is the compromising olive branch when we need it most?

Will health care reform happen? One Democratic Congressmen, Anthony Weiner of New York, said indelicately the day after Scott Brown won in Massachusetts: “Yea, when pigs fly out of my (rear end)!”

So we don't know if that is a definite 'yes' or a 'no'.  You never know with this current crowd in Congress....it might have happened with some of them before.

'Flying Pig' courtesy of www.clipart.com

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