The Start of Something Big: Obamacare May Renew Faith in Government
The Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act yesterday can be a pivotal point in the restoration of faith in government.
With the affirmation of Obamacare, it is now up to the president to make clear to Americans how much help it will provide them. There are even bigger stakes than health care; this can be the pivot point around which faith in government can be restored. It is the main theme of our Rediscovering Government initiative.
One can only hope the president won’t back off. Of course, the intense concern about the deficit can be hobbling, and it's a concern the president has too readily bought into. But it is now time to rejoice. Obamacare is full of what I’d call minimal decency, which is a big step up from the insensitive health care system the nation built—a cruel system because it left so many out.
The law is complex but has so many good points, from closing the senior drug doughnut hole, to requiring insurance companies to take all comers regardless of pre-existing conditions, to ending lifetime caps on insurance payments, to providing understandable insurance plans for all managed by state exchanges, that it would take an hour or so if the president were to make a speech explaining them.
It also has faults, but not the ones the Republicans and extreme right are likely to point out, which will revolve around denying freedom in some way or other. Let's remind the anti-government right that healthy people are far freer than unhealthy ones.
Costs are an issue. Sadly, the Supreme Court majority voted to allow states to deny Medicaid coverage in the new bill. But perhaps this will be a rallying point for political activity in state capitals. Obamacare does have some mechanisms to reduce general costs, but we will need more effective ones to deal with rising health care costs in the 2020s. Let’s remember that an affordable public option—an alternative to private insurance—could eventually be added if the public starts to support Obamacare and elects congressional representatives willing to vote for such an option. This could do a lot to keep costs down.
Here’s a link to a piece I did on Obamacare for the New York Review of Books that may be of some help.
Again, however, Obama should use his health care victory as a message that government is necessary, can work, and will make America a far better place. The purpose of government is the issue of the age.
See the article from today’s New York Times, by Mark Landler, which repeats many of our own themes about government. Let’s try to make this a new beginning. As the economist Annette Bernhardt just said to me, “the president now has a second chance.”