Good Speech, Muddled Politics


Many people in Washington sadly have come to the conclusion that the moment for health care reform has come and gone. In short, that Obama’s inspiring speech was too little and too late.

What’s left is a dim possibility of limited reform. And many critics believe Obama can’t even get that.

However, it may just be that Obama, using the Democratic majority as a hammer, can achieve some limited change for the better. If so, that most likely will come from a base set forth by the Baucus plan announced yesterday, embellished and compromised during the joint House-Senate conference that will settle the issue.

As for the public option, that’s pretty clearly gone down the drain. Obama said the public option is “only one part of my plan.” He added, “If you can’t find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice.’’ The choice, of course, could be any one of a number of things—expanded Medicaid, tax breaks, coops, special subsidy programs. One thing is clear, it won’t be a challenge to the private insurance industry. Obama said, “I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business.’’

The speech was brave. But the politics remains a muddle. The problem here is the Obama administration’s inability to project a vision for real change. Instead, it has dawdled in a swamp of technocratic mumbo jumbo.

The relevant model here is not Theodore Roosevelt, John Dingell’s father, Harry Truman, or LBJ—it is the wishy washy credit card legislation enacted earlier this year which in many ways has become the stamp of this administration. As I have written previously,

Under a propaganda blitz heralding sweeping reform, we get legislation that reins in some of the very worst abuses, while making no significant change at all to the underlying flawed system. So, for example, we may see insurance companies required to provide coverage in spite of pre-existing conditions–something Obama referred to in his AMA speech, with moving references to his mother’s own battle with cancer. We might see what the President called “more efficient purchasing of prescription drugs,” which presumably means more power to haggle with Big Pharma over drug costs, as well as speeding up approval of generics. We will see health care providers given incentives for more cost-effectiv–and, we can hope, better–treatment. These things are not meaningless, and they will provide a modicum of help to some struggling Americans. But they do virtually nothing to strike at the basic American system of health care for profit. And at the same time, they offer only a fraction of the savings a single-payer system could offer.

 

$500,000 MATCHING GIFT

In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones: A special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of the huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.