Sunday, June 28, 2009

Setting Aside Principle

At first glance, it almost makes sense.

Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, in a column entitled "A Tail Wags The Dog on Health Reform," argues on June 28 that "advocates are wrong in elevating the public plan to litmus-test importance." She contends, plausibly, "there is too little focus on making certain that the overall regulator structure (the dog) is strict enough and transparent enough to prevent private insurers from gaming the system...."

Marcus declares she is "ambivalent on the merits of including a public plan in the exchange.... to which those without employer-provided health insurance would go to obtain coverage." But she disingenuously concludes

to work, the public plan has to be able to set prices and, at least at the outset, require providers to participate if they want to remain eligible to accept Medicare patients. Does anyone think that is what's likely to emerge from Congress? If not, is this really where all the energy of those who want to ensure effective reform should be spent?

The implication is that oh, if only, Congress would be reasonable and accept a public plan- but it won't, so darn it, wouldn't it be great if Democrats adopted a different strategy to achieve desired reform?

This alleged ambivalence about a public plan and interest in reform of a system dominated by the health insurance industry would be more credible if we did not learn, in her column of 3/27/09 carried by the Dallas Morning News, that she is opposed to a public plan; to an individual mandate; to cost containment (see "piece #4"); and to anything which would risk offending Repub lawmakers.

As it usually does from neo-liberals, it comes down to this: Democrats would be so unreasonable to cleave to principle (and to a public plan, popular with the public) because it would be antithetical to the principle of post-partisanship. Warning against the reconciliation process, by which Democrats would achieve reform with a mere 51 votes, Marcus concludes in March "wielding the stick would be the end of bipartisanship as we never got a chance to know it."

Per capita spending is greater in this country than in any other affluent nation. With the U.S. economy in recession, there are nearly 50 million Americans uninsured, health care spending is over 17% of gross domestic product, and more Americans are losing their homes every year by foreclosure due to health care costs. And while Repblicans are opposed to any health care reform that doesn't further enrich the insurance industry at the expense of the public, some journalists have become positively feverish over the possiblity that a mythical, unprecedented bipartisanship may not be given the opportunity to block reform of a system disgraceful by the standards of the civilized world.

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