Obama's Plan Demands New Healthcare Vision

The more I've read about the healthcare debacle, and the more I've ruminated over the president's proposals to reform our healthcare system, the more I've been inclined to think about what we are really doing here that is scaring some Americans so badly.

We are standing at the beginning of what could be a seminal moment in American history, when our "all the profit you can generate" healthcare system is transmogrified into the "this is enough profit" healthcare system.

Because if President Obama truly intends to accomplish any of the major goals regarding healthcare reform that he has laid out for his administration, the reality is that we as a nation are going to have to make a fundamental shift in the kind of business philosophy we think is appropriate for our healthcare system.

In many ways, what Obama's plan demands is a new way of seeing the healthcare industry, moreso in the way that we have come to see our power companies, for instance - as an industry whose machinations are so necessary to modern human life that they are in effect the equivalent of public utilities.

Maybe it has been the constant repetition of the phrase "public option" the last few days, or maybe it was an article I read in the Weekly Standard, or maybe it was the way the proposed bill seeks to regulate so many aspects of the healthcare fee-for-service transaction - whatever it was, it got me to thinking about the power companies and how closely we have regulated them, and how we have pre-determined for years how much of a profit they could make.

Duke Power and Georgia Power have some of the happiest shareholders in the country, the public feels that it gets a quality product at a reasonable price, and everybody, even the unprofitable customers, have access to electricity as long as they can pay their bills.

The thing I am wondering is, if the president could put what he is trying to accomplish in these terms, would it remove some of the anxiety for those who fear the unknowns behind his reform efforts? For those who see the erosion of their capital as the only result of reform?

Right now, without being able to point to an example of what he is looking to get done down the road, the president is left with a lot of loose ends from his current proposal that are just dangling all over the place because they are not a part of a larger, coherent, easily digested narrative structure.

With 46% of healthcare expenditures already being paid by the government through its existing programs, and the onset of the baby boomer bulge that is due to start swelling the ranks of Medicare aand Medicaid, President Obama has no choice but to begin to act now if the government is to have a fighting chance.

The question is, how long will it take the rest of us to realize this?

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dave crockett said...


The President has much more than a branding problem on his hands--though he has one to be sure. This has never been about health for the obstructionists in Congress. This is American conservatism--as fragmented and disjointed as it is--fighting for its life. Anything that looks like it could possibly lead to "socialized medicine" is their death knell. The death imagery you keep hearing from conservatives (e.g., death camps for teens from Bachman, death panels for the elderly and Sarah Palin's baby) is tied to a deep-seeded fear; the fear of being pushed off the plank into complete irrelevance.

Conservatives are screaming about Hitler, but it's FDR that really scares them. A second coming of the New Deal ensures at least a generation of complete and utter irrelevance. A health care overhaul is a clear step in that direction. So these guys are fighting for their political lives, and they are posturing as guerrillas. As the brother said in "The Spook Who Sat By the Door," guerrillas don't have to win. They just have to not lose. That's all we're seeing right now.

A Kevin Baker piece in the July Harper's compares Obama to Hoover for his timidity and inability to take the step into the New Deal. It's the most insightful critique of Obama I've read thus far. (http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/07/0082562?redirect=1982284879)

John Brady said...

I fear most Americans perceive utilities as cold distant entities they only interact with if something goes wrong. Health Care should be the opposite. It needs the warm fuzzy feel of chicken soup.
President Obama needs to sell this as social justice (which is one of the 4 pillars of medical ethics). We know 18,000 people die every year from not being able to access health care. We know that 60% of all personal bankruptcies are attributable to health care costs (with 70% of these coming from those WITH insurance). With no plan coming from the other side of the aisle, we are left deciding whether it is ok to watch as a significant portion of our population is thrust into poverty and/or dies through no fault of their own other than being born in the richest country in the history of the world without adequate health insurance. This is social justice. It is the civil rights fight for our generation.
If Pres. Obama frames the refom in these terms, and sticks to this larger message instead of getting caught up in the weeds of details, he will get the bill through. If he continues to defend and explain how the weeds differ from the grass, he will fail to provide the country what it really needs in this historic time.

Jason said...

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ch555x said...

Good points!

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