We’ve been watching President Obama walk back from a number of his campaign promises lately. And now we are watching the health care industry back off from the premise of the May 11th Summit, which was a commitment to reform. First, the insurance industry said they hadn’t really guaranteed the $2 trillion in savings, and now they are even more hesitant to commit to any changes. Frank Luntz has already circulated the talking points, and it’s the same old stuff, but couched in way more subtle terms.
Worse, the entire single payer option, favored by many people in the U.S., is off the table, and proponents who have attempted to lobby for it in Congress at hearings have been ejected and arrested. The last I heard, Sen. Baucus, co-chair of the effort to reform health care, has tried to avoid even talking to the single payer advocates.
We are well aware of the need for compromise in legislation. But if Obama doesn’t show some leadership here, health care reform will go the way of Hillary Clinton’s last try at it in 1993, only with a more pleasant demeanor on the part of the opposition — in line with Obama’s new push for civil discourse. But what’s the use of civil discourse if nothing changes? We will lose more providers, because they are now demoralized and powerless to control the system they work in. We will lose more patients, because younger people with chronic illnesses who can’t get treatment will begin to die off. Economically, we will suffer because we won’t have a healthy work force. Do we want to look like Africa?
The one encouraging piece of news is that Teddy Kennedy’s cancer seems to be in remission, and he is expected back in the Senate after the Memorial Day recess. I hope he is there to throw down the gauntlet and make these enators fall in line so that we get a meaningful change.
We can’t afford not to do this. Medicare is going broke, Part D isn’t working for most people, large numbers of unemployed and underemployed adults are uninsured, emergency rooms are overwhelmed, and only SCHIP, the children’s health insurance plan, seems to be working.