Compromise To Remain On The Path To Health Care Reform

Whether a health reform deal includes a public option remains a key issue dividing the parties. The Wall Street Journal reports there is room for compromise:

It is more important that health-care legislation inject stiff competition among insurance plans than it is for Congress to create a pure government-run option, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said.”The goal is to have a means and a mechanism to keep the private insurers honest,” he said in an interview. “The goal is non-negotiable; the path is” negotiable.

President Barack Obama has campaigned vigorously for a full public option. But he’s also said that he won’t draw a “line in the sand” over this point. On Tuesday, the White House issued a statement reiterating his support for a public plan.

“I am pleased by the progress we’re making on health care reform and still believe, as I’ve said before, that one of the best ways to bring down costs, provide more choices, and assure quality is a public option that will force the insurance companies to compete and keep them honest,” the president said in the statement. “I look forward to a final product that achieves these very important goals.”

While some have drawn lines in the sand, Rahm Emanuel gets it right. What is important is the final result and that solutions be offered to problems.  Some on the left have concentrated too much on the path, threatening to vote against bills which achieve the desired goals if they do not do it in the manner they prefer.

If a perfect health reform bill was passed which imposed the necessary restrictions on insurance companies it would not be necessary to have a public  plan. It might be argued that to demand a public plan is to be conceding that the health care legislation will not produce the needed reform. Of course this is also a realistic position, knowing that there is a strong chance that insurance companies will find ways to circumvent regulations to maximize profits regardless of what laws are written.

Many liberal bloggers such as Ezra Klein question why any compromise is needed with the Democrats controlling the White House and both houses of Congress. If Congress can pass legislation which contains a public plan then this whole discussion of compromise becomes irrelevant. The reason that it does remain a matter of discussion is that it is not yet certain whether the Democrats will remain united to pass a bill with a public plan. Moderate Democrats might join the Republicans in voting against a public plan.  It is then that we should remember Rahm Emanual’s stress on the goal rather than the path and still push for legislation which prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to those who need it in order to maximize profits.

Update: Will Wilkinson comments on Ezra’s Klein’s response to Emanuel. I have commented further on Wilkinson’s post here.

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  1. 1
    Nance Confer says:

    I’m not denied coverage now. I can’t afford coverage. And then, if I sold the house and kids and paid for coverage, then I’d be denied coverage. After the fact of the normal consequence of living — needing healthcare.
    Why would we expect the insurance companies to do anything but continue to play this game? Why would we trust them?

  2. 2
    bruno says:

    I’m surprised you’re even considering what Rahm is proposing.  Your insinuating that Democrats might vote against it if it isn’t exactly what they want.
    By all means.  I’d rather have them vote against it and fail, than give in – once again – to moronic Republicans who have already said that they will NOT vote for anything that has a public option or costs more than 1 trillion.
    Democrats need to take some cues from the weaselly Republicans.  Run the numbers on 5 to 7 years – just like the Bush Administration did to ram their tax cuts through.  And include an option to phase out the public plan if it seems to not be working.
    The Republicans were banking on the fact that the estate taxes were going to be renewed instead of allowed to expire.  Why not do the same thing now?  Tell the morons that there is an expiration date on the public plan
    After 10 years of having a public plan, not one voter will allow their moron Republican congressman to vote against making it permanent.
    Let them deal with that issue.
    THAT is compromise NOT taking it off the table.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    “Your insinuating that Democrats might vote against it if it isn’t exactly what they want.”

    I’m doing more than insinuating. I linked to a previous post which showed some Democrats are threatening to vote against the plan if they don’t get exactly what they want.

    If they have the votes to get what they want there is no problem. However if they don’t we should not abandon efforts at health care reform because of a few specific details.

    Back in 1992 Hillary Clinton’s strategy was to either have her plan or no plan. We wound up with nothing as a result. It is far better to pass a plan which places restriction on insurance companies to attempt to prevent them from denying coverage than to have no bill at all because it is not seen as perfect.

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