Monday, February 1, 2010

Is Healthcare Reform Dead? Not So Fast Part I

There have recently been two significant and somewhat surprising developments that have many people now saying that healthcare reform is dead. The first of these was the Republican upset in Massachusetts for the Senate seat long held by Senator Ted Kennedy who for years was the country's strongest champion for healthcare reform. Most political experts did not see this one coming, particularly in light of President Obama's strong push for this initiative as a testament to Senator Kennedy's long career of service.

The second event was President Obama's backing off of healthcare reform as his number one domestic agenda item. Four weeks ago, with a solid Senate majority of 60 votes, the president was calling for a healthcare reform bill to be passed prior to his State of the Union address. As it turned out, healthcare reform wasn't even mentioned until 40 minutes into his speech. When he did bring it up, it was in a much more conciliatory tone asking the Republicans to at least consider some type of compromise measure.

The president made two key mistakes in trying to push through healthcare reform. The first was thinking that he could get unilateral party support on a complex issue such as this in such a short time. The bill itself is over 1000 pages long meaning that most of his supporters had not even read it.

The second mistake was thinking that the American people were settled down enough on the job issue and the economy that they were ready to move on and support his priority. He got the message loud and clear from Massachusetts that any time spent on healthcare reform is time that wasn't being spent dealing with unemployment and the economy. That is the country's priority.

With this being the current situation, how can I say that healthcare reform is not dead? The answer is that healthcare and access to it are still very much key issues in this country. Furthermore, the cost of healthcare continues to grow exponentially each year, not only in gross dollars but it also grows its share of the gross domestic product. So it must be addressed and soon, just not in the slam dunk way that President Obama originally intended.

More on this later.

Mark Brodeur

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