Magazine article The Christian Century

Health Care after Obama

Magazine article The Christian Century

Health Care after Obama

Article excerpt

Many liberals favor single-payer health insurance. It's the most direct path to expanding coverage, and by setting prices centrally it would bring down costs. If the starting point is the premise that basic health care is a right, this is the most straightforward approach.

Many conservatives would prefer to guarantee coverage for catastrophic health problems only, leaving day-to-day care up to a free market of sellers and buyers. Here the priority is a less regulated system and the innovation it can foster. It's a straightforward approach if the starting point is that health care is a consumer good, not a right.

Each of these is a coherent public policy vision, with clear tradeoffs. Neither has much to do with Obamacare-or with the recent GOP effort to roll it back.

The 2010 law is not straightforward because it's not a discrete entity created to reflect anyone's vision, conservative or liberal. It's a set of interventions in the existing system, calibrated to balance interests and get the bill passed. Obamacare represents a middle way between left and right-but a far more complex one than either side would ever create from scratch.

When GOP leaders tried to repeal Obamacare in March, their bill didn't capture a conservative vision for health care any more than Obamacare captured a liberal one. Its purpose was political: having promised repeal, Republicans wanted to be able to say they had delivered.

Unfortunately for the leadership, the GOP's own members read the bill. Hard-line conservatives got the credit for blocking it, rejecting the bill for what it didn't do (scrap the existing system). …

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