President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress was just what the doctor ordered, in my view. Every day I remain amazed that the American people had the surprising good sense to elect this guy.
Here’s my analysis:
1) The president, rightly, suggested that Sen. Olympia Snowe’s “trigger” initiative may be
constructive. He rightly suggested to the Left that it be given proper consideration.
2) Canada, the Left’s model for real health care reform, is a pretty good system…but it also
has its version of the Snowe trigger. The public system has to deliver basic health care
protections within a reasonable amount of time, or private insurance _can_ fill the gap.
A Quebec court case established this principle – the public system has to deliver, or else
private insurance is allowed to try to deliver the goods more efficiently. The Snowe
“trigger” proposal is just this principle turned around. If the private system can’t deliver
the goods efficiently, then a public option must be available to try to do it more efficiently.
I personally prefer Canada’s emphasis on health care as a public right, but in terms of
practical outcomes, I’d say Canada with the Quebec case and the U.S. with the Snowe
trigger proposal would be functionally equivalent.
3) The president was also right to focus on why we are returning to efforts to reform health
care in the United States…because Americans collectively pay lots more for their health
care and collectively get lots less in terms of health outcomes than every industrialized country.
In other words, the system we have now is market fundamentalism gone mad…we are so
attached to the market that we’re even going to cling to it when it loses us all money.
4) I loved seeing Obama smack down Sarah Palin for her outrageous and irresponsible “death panels” statements, and the hardcore Right in general for their lack of seriousness in the health care debate generally. A thick, visible line should be drawn between Republicans with something useful to say and Republicans who are there to sink all threats to the embarassingly unworkable status quo. People on the Left should recognize Obama’s on their side when they see him “calling out” this unconstructive opposition.