James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

Why Obama might have just killed Obamacare

July 23, 2009

If President Obama’s prime-time speech and news conference were intended to push national healthcare reform over the political goal line, then the effort almost certainly failed. Do more Americans today better understand the still-evolving plans floating around Capitol Hill than they did yesterday? Unlikely.

Take the idea of a health insurance exchange, a feature found in all the Democratic congressional plans. Obama described it as a “marketplace that promotes choice and competition,” as if it were a healthcare version of eBay. Actually, the exchanges would be a government regulatory mechanism that could severely limit consumer choice. Or maybe not. In any case, there are few outside of Washington think tanks who have any idea this idea would work in practice across the country.

Nor was the president clear about the exact role of the government in a changed healthcare delivery system. Although Obama said any bill he signs would “keep government out of health care decisions,” the whole point of Obamacare is to use government to transform how doctor’s provide service by altering incentives.

Now maybe it would be a nudge — to use the language of behavioral economists — from Washington rather than a shove, but few non-experts have any sense of how a typical doctor visit might change. Sure, having a physician prescribe a cheaper blue pill rather than a pricier red pill if they both work the same is a no brainer. But what if the red pill is pricier, no more effective but has fewer nasty side effects like nausea? Or what if the red pill is 40 percent more effective but costs 80 percent more? Who is going to make the red pill-blue pill decision?

But Obama really wasn’t giving a closing argument as to why his plan would be the right solution to America’s healthcare problems. Instead, lackluster public interest in the issue — at least as compared with the recession and rising unemployment — led him to spend considerable time explaining yet again why reform is needed and needed now.  Ideally, as the White House sees things, the public would have already accepted its narrative that a) Team Obama stabilized the bad economy it inherited, b) although economy is slowly mending it will take time for the jobs to appear, and c) so while we’re waiting, let’s fix healthcare. But Obama probably didn’t help himself by burying his most powerful argument for middle-class voters with health insurance — that rising healthcare costs prevent bigger wage increases.

Then again, maybe the president’s real problem boils down to his apparent belief in the false choice he presented: “You know, just a broader point, if somebody told you that there is a plan out there that is guaranteed to double your health care costs over the next 10 years, that’s guaranteed to result in more Americans losing their health care and that is by far the biggest contributor to our federal deficit, I think most people would be opposed to that. Well, that’s status quo. … So if we don’t change, we can’t expect a different result.”

Yet it might not be a case of Americans being too comfortable with the status quo as much as it is one of Americans being extremely uncomfortable with Obama’s version of a new status quo.

So was the president successful in getting out his message? Here’s one bad sign: The top morning news shows led not with healthcare but with Obama’s slam against police officers that arrested his friend and college professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. With Congress stymied and public interest waning, a muddled message means a lost opportunity for Obama and healthcare reform.

Comments

All these people who root for Obama no matter what he does, who just believe everything he says and believe that everything he does is charmed, are in for a rude awakening. If they haven’t already caught on to the fact that he is totally inexperienced and clueless, sdds
they will eventually. Might not be until they are dying and their government sponsored health care won’t pay for their chemo. But someday they’ll wake up and see him for who he really is.

Posted by Stanley | Report as abusive
 

GWB’s failure to reform Social Security should be a red flag to anyone promoting yet another government takeover. Conceived as a self-funded plan in the 1930s Social Security was constantly expanded by the politicians to buy votes and influence constituencies afterwards. Now it’s a bloated, near-bankrupt mess desperately in need of reform. However it’s not called the “third rail” of politics w/o reason: Any attempt to correct or stabilize it is met with a chorus of partisan-driven charges against whoever’s trying to fix it. Does anyone think the same thing wouldn’t happen with nationalized health care? With private health care the market drives out inefficiencies, waste, and poor service. Nationalize it and you’ll have Barney Frank declaring the system sound and in no need of reform the day before it collapses, just as he did in the Freddie Mac mortgage fiasco last year.

Posted by Orion | Report as abusive
 

The facts area: Obama is lying. Listen and watch for yourself. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZ-6ebku3 _E

Posted by commonsense247 | Report as abusive
 

Many people believe that Congress has a govt healthcare plan. That’s not true. Their plan is run by the private sector. This is a nightmare waiting to happen.
If Gov’t gets into healthcare just think of all the ways they control what we do. Oh well, you didn’t eat healthy, that ‘s why you are diabetic. Didn’t you follow the Govt plan on a healthy lifestyle. oh you smoke , well that’s just unhealthy Begone!!!No healthcare for you!!! Don’t think it won’t happen. Just listen to Obama’s comments to the women with a 105 yr old mother who received a pace maker. “Maybe a pill would have been better”.

Posted by Bitter Clinger | Report as abusive
 

I don’t think health-care was ever likely to pass. The democrats may want it, but even they are not that stupid. 70% of Americans are very happy with their healthcare and I doubt a majority of the 30% remaining would be better off with obamacare.

Not to mention that the Mass. plan is an abject failure.

Why should the vast majority of us give up our quality care for the economically disadvantaged? We here in America have a fine tradition of blaming the economically disadvantaged for their own lot. I don’t see that changing with the current marxist in charge.

Posted by justin | Report as abusive
 

Better yet, take a look at our VA heathcare. A shining example of what is to come. I spoke to one of my peers yesterday whose father is a veteran. He told me it is awful. All the paperwork etc. It takes nearly a yr to get your claims paid. Meanwhile, you are still getting billed. This not mention all the health scares recenting with 10,000 possible hepatitis infections and HIV infections due to unclean practices.

Posted by Bitter Clinger | Report as abusive
 

We have the BEST healthcare in the world. We don\’t take our children or family to other countries to try to get healthcare. Other people from the world FLOCK here. We are the gold standard in healthcare provided. Our waits are very short and the healthcare provided is excellent. We are at the top of the new innovations and technologies. We lead the way in healthcare.

Posted by Bitter Clinger | Report as abusive
 

If we are speaking of only 47 million, 12 of which are most likely illegals, that leaves 35 million, Half are out of work and the other half simply opt out of it. So in reality. The best way to fix this issue is to CREATE JOBS!!!! I think maybe some tort reform would be good, but for 18 million people they could have paid for their heathcare for the next 1-2 yrs with 36 billion. We just spent 800 billion on the stimulus bill. How’s that working out for you and another 700 billion bailing out failed companies who still layed off people. If getting healthcare is the issues, they why not just pay for the people who can’t afford it rather than overhauling a system to reduce the quality of care for everyone? This man is dillusional. He wants every one to have the same crappy healthcare. Redistribution. Why not ask Chicago Southside people how they like the hospital Michelle worked at. They are being investigated for “Patient Dumping” which is illegal.

Posted by Bitter Clinger | Report as abusive
 

With many drugs, they work for some people, but not for others.

When I was being treated for high blood pressure, my doctor started me on one pill. Then he tried a different pill, then he tried several combinations of pills, until he found a combination that kept my blood pressure under control with no unacceptable side affects.

People are different, and they react to drugs differently. Declaring that only the most inexpensive drug for any condition will be permitted, will condemn millions to a life with no effective treatments.

Posted by MarkW | Report as abusive
 

Obama’s comment about the Gates arrest was a calculated effort to divert attention from further analysis of his “Healthcare Reform”. Guys, PLEASE WAKE UP! This bill is NOT about healthcare and it’s NOT about helping people. It is an attempt to expand government and takeover a significant portion of the US economy. Obama doesn’t want the details to be known. He is being deliberately vague. If this passes, government will be involved in every aspect of your life. Government will determine where doctors will practice medicine, who will get into medical school, and whether you are too ‘old’ to get treatment for an ailment. There will be more ‘end of life counseling’ according to those who have read both House and Senate bills. If Obama truly wanted healthcare reform, he would clean up Medicare and Medicaid fraud first— fraud is rampant in both of these programs as we all know, and insist on tort reform! Contrary to what Mr. Obama claims, healthcare is not broken. 90% of the people in this country have health care. Changes need to be made but the REAL AGENDA here has more to do with expanding the role of government in our lives and tearing down the free market system–REGARDLESS OF THE COST. It’s about implementing his ideology for a new America. I do believe if he is successful in putting all of the intended pieces in place, you won’t even recognize this country anymore.

Posted by Sandy Cove | Report as abusive
 

No, the problem is that he told us we needed his/Pelosi’s/Reid’s stimulus package RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW or we’d all DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE.

CAN’T TAKE A FEW DAYS TO READ AND DISCUSS IT.

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

That turned out to be, uh, WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG.

No one with any sense trusts his judgment any more on econOmic matters, and rightly so.

Posted by Chester White | Report as abusive
 

Awake: Interesting theory about Gov. Romney suffering because of the slow motion failure of his health care plan, but I think there’s limits to that.

Since it’s similar enough to the schemes the national Democrats have for destroying private insurance and putting us all into a single payer system, the MSM and Democrats can’t pound him on this without also damaging the best path to single payer.

More likely it will be used by other Republicans in the nomination season.

Posted by Harold | Report as abusive
 

I had the exact same sentiments about the MSM headlines all being about Obama taking on the police. I knew that if all the networks that carry Obama’s water could only come away with that as there main story then everything Obama said about health care was a bust. That means even they couldn’t come up with any of substance to support his talking points.

I think the MSM failed to realize, though, how much Obama’s comment about Skippy vs. the police defies any notion of a post-racial society. Too many of his appointments and comments are showing that he is in fact in the middle of any perceived divide, not above it.

Posted by Josh Reiter | Report as abusive
 

Does anyone notice the similarity with the rush rush “Lets do it now” manner of Barack Obama and a good used car salesman? They both know that if you have time to think about the deal they are proposing, that you won’t do the deal. Same goes for his National Health Care proposal. Fisrs of all, hardly anybody, from the Senate to the Congress to the President himself has read the proposal. He said it is still being revised. So if that’s the case, why rush approval if it is not done?
The car salesman would say,”The car you are buying still needs two front wheels(On order) and a steering wheel, but please sign here on the dotted line.

I was able to see the future when Obama was first introduced to the public back when Bush ran against Al Gore or against Kerry. I forget which election. Obama was touted back then as a rising Democratic star. I knew then he was bad news for this country. Unfortunately, I was right.

Posted by georgewobama | Report as abusive
 

I’ve noticed that a number of people have jumped at the chance here to spread more Republican propaganda. And propaganda it is: ther is nothing sinister about government-administered health-care—government is not sinister unless it is oppressive like fascism or like the distorted form of communism we saw develop in Russia and China.
Those opposed to Obama continue to distort also: they choose to ignore the Canadian and European models of post-war government health-care because they fervently support HEALTH-CARE AS A PROFITABLE BUSINESS. That is the sum total of their argument but they won’t say so directly. Health for profit is not only inefficient, it is immoral on its face. Obama won’t use this kind of direct language because this issue can’t be discussed outside of the politicized climate the Republicans have created; it would be counterproductive because this country has been hammered by Republican propaganda for generations and too many people have developed a naive notion that taxes should not pay for doctors and hospitals while it is OK to raise taxes for sewer systems and highways (as well as war).

Posted by michel merle | Report as abusive
 

The present form of Health Care proposed by the Obama administration contains regulations that state when a person reaches sixty-five or older, rather then be given adequate health care, they will be consuled on why they would be better off not accepting any further medical help. Instead they will be advised to accept letting nature take it’s course and to die peacully without being a burden to the health care system. If that is not sinister, I don’t know what is.

Posted by gwobama | Report as abusive
 

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