Friday, January 30, 2009

Uh, oh!

Just 10 days into the Obama administration, there are signs that comprehensive health care reform might be put off until next year. And that the partisan and ideological differences that stalled prior reform efforts may again rear their heads.

Reporting on yesterday's Senate vote to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the Washington Post notes that, "The rancorous debate - on a program that once basked in bipartisan popularity - raised doubts about whether the two parties can unite to pass broader health reform later this year, several moderate Republicans said."

And Congressional Quarterly reports that House majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has predicted that health care reform might be delayed until 2010. Other key lawmakers, including Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), chair of Ways and Means' health subcommittee, have said the same.

2010 will be an election year, with all 435 seats in the House of Representative and a third of the Senate up for grabs. Typically, election years tend to harden partisan differences, making it less likely that controversial issues will get through.

Before deciding to delay, President Obama and his congressional allies should consider that they are riding an unprecedented wave of public support for health care reform.

A whopping 90% of voters rated health care reform as the either the "highest" or a "higher but not the highest" priority for the new president and Congress, according to a January 16 ABC-Washington Post poll.

Who knows if the public will feel the same a year from now? Who knows if President Obama will still have the political mojo to get it done?

President Obama has an enormous opportunity - perhaps the greatest of any President - to achieve comprehensive health care reform, leading to health coverage for all.

But as the saying goes, he needs to strike while the iron is hot.

Today's question: Do you think health care reform can wait until next year?


Bohdan A. Oryshkevich, MD, MPH said...

That explains the Krugman op-ed piece in the New York Times.

Bohdan A. Oryshkevich, MD, MPH

Jay Larson MD said...

The longer the wait, the greater the cost.

Steve Lucas said...

No, health care reform cannot wait. Any delay will result in the lobbyist being able to co-op any legislation.

One of the many issues I see in the medical field is that doctors look for a logical answer to problems. This is due in part to their training. The problem with medical reform is people are not looking for the best answer, but the answer that will represent the most financial gain for them or those they represent.

One result is that patients are faced with ever increasing cost while front line doctors face ever increasing work loads, all for the benefit of a few financial winners.

If we are to truly have health care reform, hard decisions will need to be made, and the impossible will need to happen: Politics will have to be set aside in the decision making process.

Steve Lucas