Obama Disappoints Again … Health Care Reform Likely to Lose its Public Option

Boy, what a disappointment. According to published reports, the Obama administration is willing to give up a plan to create a government-run health insurance company – the so-called ‘public option’ – in order to get some sort of reform passed. Instead, they are now touting the creation of some kind of cooperative health insurance groups, which would be non-profit and owned by its members.

Now I don’t want to overstate the letdown I feel. If this is the only way some health care reform can get done, then fine. Something needs to be done, and the political realities on the ground are obviously quite tricky when you have a slim majority in Congress and even some of the Blue Dogs Democrats are barking like they don’t want to support anything that could increase our deficit.

And unlike getting pregnant, you can get ‘a little reform’ when it comes to health care. I’ll be relatively pleased if a bill passes that takes active measures to limit cost inflation by reducing waste or fraud or increasing efficiencies in the system and includes regulations forbidding insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions or dropping people when they get sick.

But I wonder how many other compromises will find its way into the legislation before it reaches the President’s desk. Already, DF pointed out a blog post that indicated the administration agreed to some fairly serious concessions to the pharma industry in order to get it to agree to close the Medicare doughnut hole in prescription coverage.

When it comes to this nation’s health care system, the patient is very sick and needs a very strong prescription. A placebo won’t do. If and when this plan finally passes, will it have any teeth in it?

Or will it just be another example in a growing list of measures that Obama has either avoided pursuing or gotten passed only after it was strongly watered down. A stimulus bill was passed, but only after its size had been slashed, and several of the more left-leaning initiatives removed. An effort to end military tribunals was abandoned. Energy reform and cap-and-trade (an interesting idea that will likely do far too little to reduce global warming) linger in legislative limbo. Meanwhile, Obama has been silent on immigration reform, avoids changing don’t-ask-don’t-tell, and decides to fight the release of torture photos.

The area where Obama has had his biggest successes has been in the economic arena, yet many of the initiatives there – such as forcing GM into bankruptcy and doling out hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout money to banks and Wall Street institutions – hardly qualify as furthering the liberal agenda.

Why are liberals so friggin afraid of their own ideology? Can you imagine the Bush administration hemming and hawing the way Obama’s team has? They wanted tax cuts, they got it done. They wanted authorization to go to war with Iraq, they got it done. They wanted the Patriot Act passed, they got it done.

Granted, there’s very little on a political level that I want Obama to emulate from the Bush team. As someone who finds strict, unwavering adherence to an ideology a bit disturbing, I like the fact that Obama is open to compromise. Often, many of the most successful initiatives a president will accomplish come by reaching across the aisle in areas not normally associated with their side’s ideology (like Clinton’s welfare reform or Bush’s AIDS relief work).

But look, the folks on the other side had their chance. They messed up, and Americans voted for change. Not just change in process – in how things got done in Washington – but voted for change in policy, too.

Troubling public opinion polls and frequent displays of hostilities at town hall meetings shouldn’t matter much if you think the results of policy change will be successful.

Democrats now control both houses of Congress. There’s no justification for deadlock or watered-down, half-assed measures.

For at least the next three years, the Left has been given the opportunity to lead this country. It’s time they do just that.

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