Healthcare will always be a thorn in the side of the GOP
I have learned far more about healthcare reform than I ever thought I would in recent months. In the end, what leaps out at me is that this issue – unresolved – will become a more and more of a thorn in conservative’s side. If people think the Tea Party phenomenon is bad, just wait until a real populist movement rises up that is fundamentally opposed to free trade, that wants more rather than less government, that demands protectionist policies and entitlements. The one thing which I can see spurring on something like this more than any other issue is a combination of poor employment and poor (and expensive) healthcare. Is it so hard to imagine the Tea Partier who wants government to keep its hands off his Medicare, to be turned into an advocate of protectionist policies?
The current reform bill is not nearly liberal enough to avoid such a movement, nor is it conservative enough to really put into place any real chance at a market solution. It keeps the lousy system we have in place now, and adds to it a tremendous cost to the middle class. Furthermore, I see no future political will to actually implement any true market solution for healthcare. So Republicans should think about ways to make national healthcare more sustainable via market mechanisms (choice, HSA’s, etc.) while still accepting the fact that an overall national/social model will be adopted eventually. Otherwise healthcare will likely persist as an issue and Republicans will be increasingly on the losing side of that issue.
I think the best model would probably be something like single payer plus health savings accounts. Make people of whatever income responsible for basic healthcare costs, but protect them from really damaging bills. Free up businesses and entrepreneurs from the chains of healthcare uncertainty. Somehow find a way to increase the supply of healthcare; and work toward means by which we can make cheaper, alternative healthcare solutions more available. Alternatively we could adopt something like Wyden-Bennett. My reluctance to support this bill, pure ideological concerns aside, is that I worry it will only help persist the status quo, and the status quo is no good.
Whether there is a reasonable alternative is harder to say. Federalism is quickly going out of style – and the next real national movement may be a unity of tea partiers and union members, social conservatives and progressives – the sort of movement Mark has predicted, but one that is bereft of libertarian and free trade principles. What would that do to our trade policies? To our employment rate and productivity?
Suffice to say, for anyone with a libertarian economic outlook, or for anyone with concerns over civil liberties, this should be a concern. Perhaps fending it off with a reasonable compromise on healthcare reform would actually make a great deal of sense.