David Brooks, in the waning days of TimesSelect, offers up a fairly positive take of Hillary Clinton’s new health care plan. Still this gives me pause:
As she spoke, memories of the Clinton years wafted through my head — government by seminar running into the late hours. But as she will tell you (before you even have a chance to ask), she has learned a lot since the early 1990s, and while the conversations may still be endless, they are also more restrained.
And it’s true. The plan she unveiled yesterday is much simpler than the one she came up with 14 years ago. Back then, she and her staff were like technocratic engineers, one of her advisers told me, trying to patch every last gap in their edifice. This time they were content to leave the details of the plan to Congress.
That all seems smart, but in terms of actually enacting a health care reform, this sort of ducking of the complexity issue isn’t going to fly. The “plan” she released yesterday is, like the plans from Edwards and Obama, much simpler than what her task force came up with back in the day precisely because a “plan” of this sort isn’t legislation. Nevertheless, at some point before it becomes law, a plan is going to need to be fleshed out. And when it is it’s going to be very complicated.
And not because of some flaw in the program, but just because health care is a fundamentally complicated topic. The “complexity” objection to the old Clinton plan, meanwhile, was fundamentally bogus. It was a complicated plan, but existing health care finance and regulations are extremely complicated. The ins-and-outs of your private plan are complicated. Everything about health care is complicated.
Which means that, fundamentally, complexity will always be out there as something folks determined to find a pretext with which to bash a proposal can use. And since there will always be folks out there looking for pretexts, that means that at some point the politics of the complexity issue need to be confronted head-on, rather than through measures to devise a non-complicated plan.
Photo by Flickr user Ernstl used under a Creative Commons license