Obamacare: We've Only Just Begun

Yesterday, Pres. Obama’s proposed takeover of the US healthcare system took hits in polling from from NPR, TIME, Gallup, NBC/WSJ and the New York Times. Today’s Pew poll is about as bad.

The Hill and Politico report on the Congressional Progressive Caucus threatening to bolt over the deal their leaders forged with the Blue Dogs — and that is over the supposed substance, not the delay for a vote by the full House until September, when time is so clearly the Democrats’ enemy.

The emerging proposal from the bipartisan “gang of six” Senate Finance Committee negotiators that would drop a government-run insurance plan caused wailing and gnashing of teeth throughout the Leftosphere. Matt Taibbi, Scott Lemieux and Howard Dean are good examples, though Jane Hamsher attacking Ezra Klein as insufficiently dogmatic may be my favorite. Moreover, it seems that a bipartisan proposal will not emerge before Congress goes on August recess.

Grading Pres. Obama’s efforts to sell healthcare reform, Lefty blogger Nate Sliver gives The One a B+, a D+, a D- and two Fs. President Obama’s AARP town hall showed a man clearly on the defensive. It is thus no surprise that Obama plans to retool his rhetoric — though 8 bullet points, pitched mostly at the insured (who are overwhelmingly happy with their coverage already) are unlikely to change the field much.

All (or most) of the above news can cheer the Right, but the Right cannot lose sight of the larger picture, which remains pretty gloomy. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, still thinks the odds of sticking us with some healthcare bill are very good, as does Rep. Mike Ross, chairman of the health-care task force for the Blue Dog Coalition in the House. Killing the public plan would be a mostly symbolic victory — essential, but not enough to prevent government-run health care.

Accordingly, when conservatives and libertarians press their elected representatives during the August recess, they should make clear that dropping the public plan is necessary, but not sufficient. Our representatives need to be told that Fannie Med co-ops are just as unacceptable as a government insurance plan.

The point should be driven home that government-run healthcare schemes with most of the same elements now being discussed have been proven disasters in Tennessee, Maine and most of all Massachusetts, which has been judged a failure by everyone from Reason to the Boston Globe. The pattern is always similar — costs soar out of control, which in turn pushes government to reduce benefits or payments to doctors and hospitals (pushing them to skimp on care). Our representatives need to be told that these schemes inevitably lead not only to government-rationed care, but the death of the medical innovation.

Our representatives need to be told that as much as we do not want a public plan, we do not want a Health Choices Czar imposing costly mandates (like the guaranteed issue mandate that nearly doubled insurance premiums in New Jersey), driving people into government-run health exchanges and interfering with our right to choose our own doctors.

Centrist Democrats are going to be pressured by their progressive colleagues and the punditocracy to cave in, to support — or at least not filibuster — whatever final bill gets cooked up in a backroom House-Senate conference. They are going to get told that the failure of Hillarycare in 1994 led to the GOP electoral tsunami that year. Centrist Democrats need to be reminded that the Democrats could have lost more seats had they passed Hillarycare. They need to be reminded that after Congress passed the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act in 1988, a mob of seniors heckled and chased then-powerful Rep. Dan Rostenkowski down a Chicago street and attacked his car. His colleagues faced a public only slightly less angry. Less than two years later, before the bill’s implementation, Congress repealed the law by huge margins.

The Democrats may be struggling today, but their current attempt to take over our healthcare system is far from meeting its Waterloo. Stop thinking ABBA. Start thinking The Carpenters.