Most of the early public skirmishing over health care issues has centered around nebulous fears of a “government takeover” of the health care sector. My sense of the state of play in congress, however, is that the votes almost certainly exist for the kind of regulatory overhaul that will change the nature of our health care system for the better. The sticking point is that ensuring the availability of affordable health care involves a substantial up-front expenditure of funds. As Peter Orszag explains, health reform is the best chance to put costs on a sustainable path over the long term. But over the short term, it takes money. And there’s no clear congressional consensus over where to find the money.
Steve Benen observes that the latest CNN polling indicates a similar issue in public opinion. 63 percent say “they would favor an increase in the federal government’s influence over their own health-care plans in an attempt to lower costs and provide coverage to more Americans,” indicating that scare stories about bureaucracy aren’t a key stumbling block. But then they asked:
“Would you prefer a health care reform plan that raises taxes in order to provide health insurance to all Americans, or a plan that does not provide health insurance to all Americans but keeps taxes at current levels?”
The split was 47-47. That’s not deadly. Indeed, I think it suggests that politicians who want to do the right thing have plenty of wiggle room. But the problem is that even if you have a senator who’s willing to raise “taxes” in the face of 47-47 public opinion, you have an additional hurdle when the subject turns to any particular tax.