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It’s the Policy, Not Just the Message

Mickey Kaus writes:

It’s seemed to me that the Obama administration has made a mistake in the framing of the health care issue: “We’ll raise your taxes and in exchange we’re going to cut your treatments.” I mean, how could that not have widespread appeal? It’s pain/pain!

Yes, but that is the nature of what the Obama administration and those pushing for a government-controlled healthcare system are advocating. It isn’t easy to disguise what you are up to when the stakes are so high. (Well, they did for a while with the mumbo-jumbo about healthcare reform paying for itself, but that wasn’t going to hold up very long.) It is going to require massive taxes and it is going to result in rationed care. At least, if they get their way in Congress.

Instead, the Left could work on the cost-control side of health care on the theory that healthcare access is really an affordability problem. But that’s not what the Ted Kennedy/Barack Obama dream of universal coverage is all about. There’s no liberal glory in declaring that by removing barriers to competition, healthcare insurance rates will fall X percent and consequently, X percent more Americans can choose to buy insurance that was previously unaffordable. Too much free market! Too Republican.

They could try to shift the country from an employer-based health-care insurance system to an individual-purchased system, thereby working on the portability and the cost problems. But again, these people aren’t after some pale imitation of what John McCain and CATO have been peddling. They want the credit for delivering healthcare to the masses.

So I think it’s more than a marketing problem; it’s a policy problem. You can’t get to a government-centric healthcare system (what liberals want) without spending gobs of money (to be paid for either by borrowing or by taxation) and then being forced to limit the gobs of money by rationing the benefits. That has been the experience in Canada and western European countries. So if that sounds unappealing — and it is — then it’s time for a new policy, not just a new message. But alas, I see no sign that the president or the Congress want to abandon their “pain/pain” approach.


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