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Friday, December 25, 2009

Paul Krugman: Tidings of Comfort

Why are so many people complaining about the health reform legislation that just passed the Senate?:

Tidings of Comfort, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Indulge me while I tell you a story — a near-future version of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” It begins with sad news:... Tiny Tim, is sick. And his treatment will cost far more than his parents can pay out of pocket.
Fortunately, our story is set in 2014, and the Cratchits have health insurance. Not from their employer: Ebenezer Scrooge doesn’t do employee benefits. And just a few years earlier they wouldn’t have been able to buy insurance on their own because Tiny Tim has a pre-existing condition, and, anyway, the premiums would have been out of their reach.
But reform legislation enacted in 2010 banned insurance discrimination on the basis of medical history and also created ... subsidies to help families pay for coverage. Even so, insurance doesn’t come cheap — but the Cratchits do have it, and they’re grateful. God bless us, everyone.
O.K., that was fiction, but there will be millions of real stories like that in the years to come. ... So why are so many people complaining? There are three main groups of critics.
First, there’s the crazy right, the tea party and death panel people — a lunatic fringe that ... has moved into the heart of the Republican Party. In the past, there was a general understanding ... that major parties would at least pretend to distance themselves from irrational extremists. But those rules are no longer operative. No, Virginia, at this point there is no sanity clause.
A second strand of opposition comes from ... the Bah Humbug caucus: fiscal scolds who routinely issue sententious warnings about rising debt. By rights, this caucus should find much to like in the Senate health bill, which the Congressional Budget Office says would reduce the deficit...
But, with few exceptions, the fiscal scolds have had nothing good to say about the bill. ... As Slate’s Daniel Gross says, what really motivates them is “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, is receiving social insurance.”
Finally, there has been opposition from some progressives... Some would settle for nothing less than a full, Medicare-type, single-payer system. Others had their hearts set on ... a public option... And there are complaints that the subsidies are inadequate... But those complaints don’t add up to a reason to reject the bill. ...
The truth is that there isn’t a Congressional majority in favor of anything like single-payer. There is a narrow majority in favor of a ... moderately strong public option. ... But given the ... Senate rules..., it takes 60 votes to do almost anything. And that..., combined with total Republican opposition, has placed sharp limits on what can be enacted.
If progressives want more, they’ll have to make changing those Senate rules a priority. They’ll also have to work long term on electing a more progressive Congress. But, meanwhile, the bill the Senate has just passed ... is more or less what the Democratic leadership can get.
And for all its flaws..., it’s a great achievement. It will provide real, concrete help to tens of millions of Americans and greater security to everyone. And it establishes the principle — even if it falls somewhat short in practice — that all Americans are entitled to essential health care.
Many people deserve credit for this moment. What really made it possible was the remarkable emergence of universal health care as a core principle during the Democratic primaries... — an emergence that, in turn, owed a lot to progressive activism. ...
So progressives shouldn’t stop complaining, but they should congratulate themselves on what is, in the end, a big win for them — and for America.

    Posted by on Friday, December 25, 2009 at 12:27 AM in Economics, Health Care | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (108)

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