Headlines from the news media. Diaries at the Daily Kos. Chain emails from conservatives. From all of these fronts we’re getting the message “Barack Obama is losing the health care reform debate”.
I say he’s NOT. Decidedly NOT. There’s been a sea change in the whole health care reform debate and I don’t think many of us have even noticed it. During the debate against “Hillarycare” during the Clinton administration, I recall very little consensus on the fact that our system needed to be reformed. Even this year as our new president took office, the rhetoric was different than it is today.
But slowly, gradually, over the course of the summer, the conversation has shifted from “should we reform the health care system?” to “HOW should we reform the health care system?”
And that’s not a minor shift nor is it inconsequential to the future of health care reform.
Before I go any further, let me just state my personal stance: I think we need a single-payer health care system that ensures that every American has full access to quality health care as a matter of RIGHT, not PRIVILEGE. I believe this will lower health care costs for the country as a whole, will make our businesses more competitive in the global market and will make America a worldwide leader in how its citizens are treated. Period.
But I also know there’s a process to get there. Like our president, I acknowledge the reality of our country: profound change of this nature is not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take some time to convince many of our fellow Americans that the government can do this in a way that makes us a stronger nation and a global leader.
I would argue that the first step along this path is get the majority of Americans to admit they have a problem. They must admit that a for-profit system of providing health care will inherently guarantee that those who threaten profits (i.e., sick people) will always be at the mercy of those who stand to reap the most from the for-profit system.
And guess what? That is happening in a profound way and the change, though subtle, has happened in the past six months.
Nearly every individual or group weighing in the health care reform debate is now saying “everyone agrees the health care system needs to be changed“.
The profound shift that this represents can not be overstated in my opinion. I first noticed this at a health care town hall held by a far-right Republican candidate (reported in my blog entry here.) Most of the people that spoke at the meeting were stridently against the current legislation. But, to a person, almost every one of them said a variation on the theme “Everyone agrees the health care system needs to be changed“.
So I started paying attention to this. What I’ve seen is that, no matter how anti-reform a person is, no matter how entrenched in Republican ideology they are, they nearly always start their comments with “Everyone agrees the health care system needs to be changed“.
Here’s some examples. I’ve left out the comments that follow their statement where they add “…but [fill in the excuse for opposition]” simply to show you how the conversation has shifted.
“Health-care reform is wanted and needed“
– Katie Hays, U.S. Chamber’s lead lobbyist on health-care reform
“The AMA is clearly committed to health reform this year. We believe the status quo is unacceptable.”
– AMA President James Rohack
The Campaign for an American Solution (an arm of America’s Health Insurance Plans [AHIP]):
The Campaign for an American Solution is a grassroots effort whose mission is to build support for workable health care reform.
“Everyone agrees that reform is needed.
House Republican Leader John Boehner:
“Everyone agrees that reducing the cost of health care would benefit our economy“
RNC Chair Michael Steele:
“Republicans believe that reforms are necessary“
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell:
“Americans are increasingly frustrated with the U.S. health care system as we know it — and they expect real reform“
This could literally go on all day. My point, and, as they say, I do have one, is that the frame in which the debate is taking place has shifted. We’re now no longer arguing about IF we should reform our health care system but HOW.
I will be crushed if we are unable to enact a good reform plan that has a stong public option component, no doubt. But I am becoming increasingly confident and optimistic that we are winning this debate. It’s a painful process, to be sure, but the tides are turning and for the first time in history, nearly everyone at the table is saying:
“Everyone agrees the health care system needs to be changed“
And THAT is a sea change.
I’m just sayin’…