The real winners in last night’s election were the American people who had rightly become frightened about the sweeping health overhaul legislation that Congress was within a breath of passing. The more people learned about the legislation, the less they supported it. Scott Brown had the energy of the country behind him in Massachusetts because millions of people understood what was at stake. His promise to vote against the bill was a key issue in his victory.
While the leadership in Congress still is talking about pushing forward to get overhaul legislation enacted, I don’t see how they can get the votes in their own caucus to prevail. The only path to passage of reform legislation now is for the president and the leaders in Congress to work with members from both sides of the aisle to come up with a smaller, more reasonable bill.
The American people have made it clear they want health insurance that is reliable and more affordable and that does not exclude people with pre-existing conditions. We could start by helping states to create more functional high-risk pools, by giving people more choices of how and where they purchase health insurance, and by assuring people that if they have coverage, they can keep it. We need to create a path toward ownership of health insurance and genuine competition among insurers. And now that people know how much wasteful spending there is in Medicare and Medicaid, they want that fixed.
There is a world of policy complexity behind these initiatives, but if we start by respecting that people value private health insurance, don’t want huge disruptions and losses of freedom, or massive new taxes and entitlement costs, we can begin a new conversation.
Published in National Journal Expert Blogs: Health Care , Jan. 20, 2010.