Thursday, July 30, 2009

Healthcare Horserace

The health care debate has been in sort of a holding pattern for a couple of weeks now: the Democrats don't know exactly what problem they're trying to solve. Some days they want cost reduction, on others they want to guarantee access to low-income Americans (frankly, I don't think they can make progress on either count but I'm just a skeptic). In any case, they know that they want to pass a health care bill of some kind to claim a political victory.

In the last couple of days, there have been a couple of developments. The Blue Dog (ie, centrist) Democrats in the House supposedly cut a deal with Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman to make the "public option" health care plan contingent on this or that and set the doctor reimbursement rates at this instead of that. In response, the liberals on the committee revolted. They are threatening to walk if they don't get the public option they want.

From the pov of preventing the further collectivization of medicine, this is a bad tactical development. Once we get to the point of being accountable for accomplishing something useful, the liberals don't have a plausible story to sell to the American people. More than anyone, they have to be able to book a political win for its own sake. They have to give the centrists whatever they want to get a bill through Congress, and they will. As I see it, this maneuver is a preemptive attempt to save face now in order vote for half a loaf later. Thus, I'd say we're in more danger of getting the camel's nose under the tent now than earlier in the week.

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