Sunday, January 24, 2010

Did Obama Try to Do Health Care Reform too Quickly?

A friend of mine recently suggested that Obama pushed too quickly for health care reform, and that a slower approach would have yielded better results, both substantively and politically. I'm not so sure.

It's not obvious that Obama was wrong to believe he needed to act quickly and decisively, at least prior to the mid-term elections, when the party out-of-power is almost always strengthened, especially given the (admittedly, highly effective) Republican strategy of total opposition to any and all legislative proposals emanating from the White House. Moreover, he took the time to gain the support (or at least non-opposition) of several key interest groups, including the AMA, AARP, and most insurers, before pressing the reforms. Furthermore, the passage of  significant (if far from perfect) reform packages in both the House and Senate suggests that legislative efforts were not premature. There is little reason to believe that spending more time on public hearings, etc., would have led to significantly better legislative outcomes in the political process.

If the Obama Administration can be faulted on health care reform it is on two counts: (1) Rahm Emmanuel and Harry Reid were unable to enforce party discipline in the Senate, which meant that Ben Nelson could hold-out for a ridiculous special deal that rightfully angered the public and gave ammunition to the opposition; and (2) the President failed to step up and take personal responsibility for communicating to the American people the social benefits (over costs) of the legislation.

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