Feature

Health-care reform: Which party benefits?

Hoping to avoid a reprise of the Clinton health-care fiasco, Obama took a big gamble when he called for reform along some broad principles and left the details to Congress.

Maybe President Obama was right after all, said Robert Pear and Sheryl Gay Stolberg in The New York Times. Hoping to avoid a reprise of the Clinton health-care fiasco, Obama took a big gamble earlier this year when he called for reform along some broad principles and left the details to Congress. As legislation moved in “fits and starts” through five House and Senate committees, with Republicans mounting an effective fear campaign, even Obama’s admirers questioned his “laissez faire” approach. But behind the scenes, Obama and his aides have been working effectively to resolve Democratic legislators’ doubts and prod committee chairmen to move bills along. With the House and Senate now preparing to vote on similar bills, the president’s “arms-length strategy” is on the verge of “paying dividends.”

Yes—to Republicans, said William Kristol in The Weekly Standard. Obama ceded the “real power” to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose final legislation promises to “wreck our health-care system and—the bright side!—the Democratic majority along with it.” Democrats lost their last majority in 1994 after raising taxes. In 1995, the new Republican majority infuriated seniors by trying to cut the rate of growth in Medicare. No one dared attempt either course again—until now. Pelosi has fashioned a reform bill that combines “the most unpopular Democratic and Republican proposals of the last generation in one piece of legislation.” That piece of legislation is a 1,990-page tribute to liberalism’s worst impulses, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. With its reckless spending, confiscatory tax rate of 45 percent on individuals earning more than $500,000, and Rube Goldberg bureaucracy, it ranks “among the worst bills Congress has ever seriously contemplated.”

Most Americans will think otherwise, said Ezra Klein in WashingtonPost.com. The bill will ensure coverage for 96 percent of Americans while actually shaving $100 billion from the deficit over 10 years by taxing the wealthy and cutting Medicare costs. And most Americans won’t experience significant changes in their employer-based coverage. Soon, all that talk of Marxist government takeovers will fade away. Don’t bet on it, said E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post. Once health-care reform is passed, Republicans “will try hard to minimize the benefits that flow from reform” while blaming Obama for every remaining health-care problem in the country. That puts the burden on Democrats to sell health reform’s many benefits to a skeptical public. “They are not simply enacting a bill. They are rolling out a product.”

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