The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal took another shot at President elect Barack Obama’s health care proposal yesterday, warning readers that Obama’s appointed health care leaders — incoming Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Daschle and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Melody Barnes — “will ration your health care”:
People are policy. And now that President-elect Barack Obama has fielded his team of Tom Daschle as secretary of Health and Human Services and Melody Barnes as director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, we can predict both the strategy and substance of the new administration’s health-care reform.
The prognosis is not good for patients, physicians or taxpayers…. Americans can expect a quick, hard push to build more federal bureaucracy, impose price controls, restrict medicines and technology, boost taxes, mandate the purchase of health insurance, and expand government health care.
The Journal’s ‘predictions’ are as predictable as they are erroneous. Conservatives have spouted the same-old tired arguments against reform since President Clinton’s failed 1994 effort, and the Wonk Room, along with some other progressive blogs, has been actively disputing their assertions.
But this latest attack piece introduces another more potent argument. The editorial, with Rove-like precision, attempts to invert the nation’s most successful universal health care reform effort into its biggest disaster:
Mr. Daschle’s model is Massachusetts. But Massachusetts’s plan is an unfolding disaster and demonstrates how Mr. Daschle’s private/public model is merely a stalking horse for government-dominated health care.
By conflating universal health care with the challenges of the Massachusetts model and defining ‘success’ as a program that remains budget neutral — not one that extends more coverage to more people — conservatives are stalling reform.
The popular Massachusetts model has greatly reduced the number of uninsured and increasing access to coverage. Nearly three-quarters of previously uninsured Massachusetts residents now have medical coverage, half of the newly-insured “are enrolled in private health insurance and employer-sponsored plans” and “the number of visits to hospitals and community health centers by the uninsured declined by 37 percent,” saving the state an estimated $68 million.
But while Massachusetts “decided not to hold coverage hostage to the difficult decisions about cost,” Obama and his health care team have suggested that they will simultaneously address access and cost. The Massachusetts plan, for instance, “allows private insurers to sell group-style policies to lower-income Massachusetts residents who lack insurance” within a “Connector” or exchange but does not include a public plan alongside private options.
The Journal, however, glosses over the details and differences and attempts to discredit both the Obama team and the successes in Massachusetts by regurgitating tired attacks and pretending that the challenges of reform discredit the entire effort.