Don’t Rush Healthcare Reform

A post-election New York Times editorial put it best, “Voters in Tuesday’s elections sent President Obama a loud message: They don’t like how he’s doing his job (and) they’re even angrier at Congressional Democrats.”

But the President put it even better, agreeing with the Times, but adding, “We were in such a hurry to get things done, we didn’t change how we got things done.  And I think that frustrated people.”

Being in a hurry defines where we are as a nation, whether, in the workplace—feeling pressure to answer emails before we receive them—or, in the White House, feeling pressure to create an FDR-style, first 100 days legacy—including healthcare reform.

The hurry mindset obviously extends to Sweden, where the Nobel Committee nominated the President for a Nobel Peace Prize based on his first 11 days in office—but I digress!

Back to healthcare. It’s not just Democrats who are in a hurry; Republicans are, too.  On Election Day, before the results were in, John Boehner, the presumptive Speaker of the House, called healthcare reform a “monstrosity,” adding, “It will kill jobs in America, ruin the best healthcare system in the world, and bankrupt our country. That means that we have to do everything we can to try to repeal this bill.”

Well, as with most issues, reforming healthcare—or, at this point, fixing healthcare reform—lies somewhere in between positions staked out by Democrats and Republicans. The good news is President Obama has indicated his willingness to consider “modifications” to healthcare law. And while there will be a Republican-led, House vote to repeal “Obamacare” that will pass, the repeal will not pass the Senate.  And, if it does, Republicans cannot override a Presidential veto.

So where are we now? According to a Harvard School of Public Health analysis of 17 independent polls, Americans believe healthcare was an important, but secondary, voting issue in the mid-term elections—behind the economy and jobs. In addition, a majority (56 percent) questioned the federal government’s ability to solve healthcare problems, while 41 percent believed Congress should repeal most of the major provisions of the bill and replace them with a completely different set of proposals. (A majority of healthcare professionals with whom I have spoken would agree with that 41 percent.)

And where are we going? As a former Republican (now an independent) who voted for Obama, I can see both sides AND, a silver lining to the mid-term election results. I believe that, when the dust settles, Americans will demand that Democrats and Republicans in Congress sit down together to assess what was passed, and, since many of its provisions do not take effect for years, regard it as a first draft and make it  better. In essence, don’t rush healthcare reform—we’ll wait for something really good.

Being deliberative is not in vogue today, but, from an outcomes perspective, it beats being in a hurry every time.