In the closing moments of the 1992 movie The Candidate, Senator-elect McKay, played by Robert Redford, turns to his top political advisor and anxiously asks "What do we do now?" as throngs of journalists pour into his hotel room. He never receives an answer.
The same question must be going through the minds of President-elect Obama and his transition team. The President-elect must organize his administration and decide on his priorities for the first 100 days.
One of the lessons from President Bill Clinton's failed attempts to reform health care is that it must be a top legislative priority from the very beginning. The Clintons waited months before unveiling their health care reform plan, and the delay allowed their precious political capital to be consumed by other issues.
Where does health care reform fall on President-elect Obama's "to do" list?
Just four days before the election, CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Senator Obama to rank his priorities. Senator Obama named stabilizing the economy as the top priority. "We don't know yet what's going to happen in January," Obama said. "None of this can be accomplished if we continue to see a potential meltdown in the banking system and financial system. So that's priority No. 1: making sure the plumbing works." (Could this be a job for Joe the Plumber???)
Senator Obama's priority number two was energy independence; priority number three was health care reform; tax reform/tax cuts was number four; and improving education was fifth. After naming health care reform as third, Senator Obama said this:
"I think the time is right to do it."
Voters agree. The New Health Dialogue Blog reports that a "a stunning two-thirds [of voters] expressed concern about affording health care" in exit polls taken on Tuesday and that "62 percent of respondents in that latest Kaiser tracking poll stated 'it is more important than ever to take on health care reform.' " (According to Drew Altman of the Kaiser Family Foundation, exit polls are a good indicator of whether voters have sent a message to politicians that is strong enough to create a mandate to reform health care).
The question of "What do we do now" can also be asked of health care reform advocates, like the American College of Physicians, who agree that the time is right. Just because a new President wants to reform health care doesn't mean it will happen. ACP needs to do its part so the opportunity to reform health care does not once again pass the country by.
In January, we released a candidate's pledge that described how ACP felt the candidates should shape their health care proposals, based on the College's key health reform priorities. ACP's election tool has been updated to show how President-elect Obama's positions compare to ACP's policies and priorities. Links are given to additional resources to learn more about the Obama plan.
Today's questions: Do you agree that the "time is right" to reform health care? How should ACP answer the question of "what do we do now?" to bring about health care reform?